Hospitals today are continuously seeking ways to improve their efficiency and maximise the resources available to them. Often this is achieved, in part, by employing a variety of digital solutions. Patient monitors, electronic health records systems and countless medical devices collect and transfer patient data at a large scale. Although this data collection is already occurring extensively in hospitals, sources are not always integrated with one another which can create inefficiencies and delays in care. The ‘smart hospital’ concept addresses this by connecting multiple devices with one another to automate processes and provide practitioners with enhanced insights and workflows. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, smart hospitals will improve the experiences and clinical outcomes of their patients.

A potential barrier to the development of smart hospitals will undoubtedly be network infrastructure. As hospitals digitise more and more processes, additional pressure will be placed on existing networks to keep up with the high volumes of data being exchanged. Advancements in the devices themselves will also contribute to this demand. Image quality improvements and utilisation of Cloud services, for example, lead to greater file sizes and data consumption. 5G networks offer a solution to this challenge by delivering high-speed and ultra-low latency data connections.

5G is the newest standard of wireless networks, offering improvements in data speeds, latency, reliability and capacity. While 5G networks have made progress in the US since initial launches in 2018, global rollouts are still in a relatively early stage. Significant expansion is expected over the next two years, driven by increased consumer uptake of 5G compatible mobile devices along with commercial applications across many sectors. Collaborations between telecom and healthcare providers have also begun with Huawei, in partnership with Siriraj Hospital, announcing the launch of Southeast Asia’s largest 5G Smart Hospital in Thailand last December.

Large infrastructure investments will be needed from both healthcare providers and telecom operators to bring smart hospitals into reality. Medical device manufacturers will also need to incorporate 5G connectivity into their product designs to ensure integration is possible. As more devices become interconnected, a greater emphasis will also need to be placed on cybersecurity to ensure that patient data is secure and hospital services are protected. As 5G networks continue to expand in the coming years, healthcare systems that choose to adopt this technology will see benefits across their entire range of services.