Sunday December 8, 2019

Vodafone partnership to use 5G to improve healthcare

1st December, 2019
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Professor Barry O’Reilly, director of the Assert Centre at UCC, and Anne O’Leary, chief executive of Vodafone Ireland at the launch of the 5G network partnership. Picture: Naoise Culhane

The launch of 5G in Ireland provides an opportunity for the healthcare sector to become a market leader in the development of innovative new solutions.

Picture: Naoise Culhane

Vodafone Ireland was the first Irish operator to launch 5G services in Ireland in August 2019. As part of this, Vodafone announced a strategic partnership with the Assert Centre (Application of the Science of Simulation to Education, Research and Medical Technology) in University College Cork (UCC) to apply 5G capability via its network to the latest developments in healthcare research and delivery.

Through its partnership with Vodafone Ireland, the centre has now become the first 5G-connected telemedicine and medical robotics training centre in the world. This means the Assert Centre now has a 5G-enabled incubator environment to test how gold-standard connectivity, infused with new healthcare research, can impact the development of new med-tech solutions, in the hope of bringing them to market much sooner than anticipated.

Debbie Power, IoT country manager at Vodafone Ireland, discusses how this partnership is set to revolutionise healthcare delivery in Ireland, with the Assert Centre set to become a Vodafone 5G global centre of IOT excellence for healthcare and end-to-end med-tech solution development.

"The launch of 5G is the next big step forward in how it can improve people’s lives. Just like 4G was ‘the era of the smartphone’, we expect 5G to be ‘the era of IoT’," she said.

"5G offers huge potential for the widespread adoption of new and innovative services, such as connected factories, cars, and smart city innovations in transport, logistics and community development. This is particularly true of the healthcare industry where innovation and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is driving unimaginable patient benefits.

"The Assert Centre seeks to design, develop, deploy and trial innovative and disruptive healthcare solutions in a simulated healthcare environment that could see the sector in Ireland deliver solutions for healthcare problems in the developed and developing world.

!The initial focus of this partnership is on three technologies: real-time monitoring with e.g. point of care ultrasound (Pocus), telemedicine and robotic surgery, integrated with wearable IoMT based devices. The 5G mobile networks will enable healthcare systems to harvest this digital ecosystem to provide personalised, precise, predictive, participatory and timely healthcare that benefits patients, their care givers, healthcare professionals, healthcare providers and healthcare systems.

"For example, when it comes to telemedicine, or the remote delivery of healthcare services, 5G connectivity can enable more effective and efficient uptake. In terms of remote patient monitoring, a technology to enable monitoring of patients outside of conventional clinical setting such as in the home, the data gathered from a range of IoT connected devices will be faster and more reliable, and can be used to improve personalised and preventive care."

Power said 5G will also have benefits in areas such as remote diagnosis and imaging.

"Also known as telesurgery, 5G has the potential to revolutionise ‘remote surgery’, which is a robot-assisted surgery allowing doctors to perform many types of complex and delicate procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than is possible with conventional techniques. 5G will enable the surgery robot to perform to the surgeon's actions tens or hundreds of miles away," she said.

Through the Vodafone 5G-connected Assert Centre, trained medical professionals will be able to test these new healthcare technologies using the most advanced telecommunications network available. This progression provides a real opportunity for Ireland’s med-tech and healthcare sector to become a world-leader, deploying innovative solutions and advancing our medical care capabilities beyond what we know today.

"Through this partnership between Vodafone and the UCC Assert Centre, we are leading the way in bringing improved healthcare services to patients across the globe."

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