Healthcare systems have been under immense pressure in the last eighteen months. As the industry continues to suffer the impact of COVID-19, technology is increasingly coming to the fore as a means to improve services and meet the healthcare demands of today. 5G’s powerful connectivity capabilities hold huge potential for the sector. But are healthcare organisations ready to implement the technology?
NTT DATA UK and research firm teknowlogy group interviewed business leaders from telcos and vertical industries such as healthcare to understand the current state of readiness for 5G implementation. Compared to other industries, the healthcare sector is less unified in its attitude towards 5G, with mixed feelings about the technology’s potential benefits and varied levels of preparedness. In the coming months, the sector must step up its plans and draw on the necessary support from partners to make the most of what 5G has to offer.
The potential of 5G
The healthcare sector stands to make considerable efficiency gains from the implementation of 5G. The rapid connectivity offered by 5G will enable numerous health tech innovations, from robots that can measure patient vitals to virtual appointment tools. With the reduced latency and higher throughput of 5G, patient data can be shared more rapidly, improving the efficacy of wearable devices and also ensuring healthcare professionals have the latest information at their disposal when providing care. As well as transforming the way patient data is shared, 5G will enable better monitoring of equipment. This will support the more effective allocation of resources to where they are needed most.
Ultimately, 5G has the potential to transform how healthcare is received and delivered. Yet, compared to other industries surveyed by NTT DATA and teknowlogy, the healthcare sector has a mixed perception of 5G. While 90% of healthcare respondents think the technology will transform their industry for the better, 60% believe it will also bring significant challenges. The main challenge healthcare organisations expect to face as they implement 5G is data management. 40% see this as a key challenge, while the second most cited concern (35%) is regulation and compliance.
Concerns about the challenges surrounding 5G seem to be translating into a relative lack of preparedness for implementation compared to other industries. Almost three quarters of healthcare respondents are still exploring the value of 5G for their business, and no respondents from the healthcare sector have a clear strategy for the technology.
Despite the lack of strategy, there is a level of understanding from healthcare leaders about where 5G will make the most difference. The vast majority (85%) believe R&D units will see the biggest impact from 5G, followed by front office functions (75%). The specific technologies expected by the sector to see the most impact from 5G implementation are networking and communications technologies, but automation and data analytics technologies will also see considerable change.
Plans for measuring the success of 5G across the healthcare sector are also mixed. Over half (55%) have a revenue generation target, but a quarter have no defined criteria at all. That said, the healthcare sector is one of the most optimistic when it comes to potential revenue generation from 5G. Respondents from the sector are more likely to expect additional revenues above 10% than other sectors such as Manufacturing and Utility. In terms of where this revenue will come from, the healthcare sector is particularly keen to grow revenue by reaching new customers (75%) and by leveraging data to deliver new customer experiences and insight-driven services and solutions (60%).
With regards to execution and implementation, healthcare organisations are more likely than enterprises in other industries to include HR leaders and facility leaders in the decision-making process alongside IT and business executives. The healthcare sector is also more likely to lean on software companies for support in implementing plans for 5G. This contrasts with industries such as Manufacturing and Banking, where most respondents believe telcos are best equipped to provide support.
Accelerating 5G maturity
Healthcare stands to make significant gains from the implementation of 5G. Yet, the sector currently lacks maturity in its approach to the technology and remains behind in terms of its preparedness for 5G roll out. To build and execute effective 5G strategies, the sector should draw on the expertise of partners such as NTT DATA UK. Once effective strategies are in place, the sector can begin to reap the rewards of greater connectivity, bringing considerable benefits to patients and healthcare providers alike.