5G in Wellness, Self-Care & Prevention

Around one in six people worldwide will be over the age of 65 by 2050, and the number of people over 80 is expected to triple to 426 million. In the UK, Wales has the oldest population across all four nations, with 21% of the population aged 65 or older; while in Dorset, 28% of the population are over 65. An ageing population means people often require care and support with multiple needs, placing greater demand on health and social care resources and staffing. 

5G networks are capable of connecting thousands of devices and sensors without slowing down connections — handling and transferring large amounts of data without delay. This will help reduce the pressure on health and social care resources by streamlining services, enabling more timely communication between the sectors, and enabling older people, and those who need social care, to be involved in their care planning.

Telemedicine and other emerging care technologies are key enablers for the future delivery of health and social care. Though not a new concept, when harnessing the power of 5G connectivity, the quality and effectiveness of monitoring increases, individuals are empowered to take responsibility for managing their own wellbeing, and providers benefit from operational efficiencies and scale. 5G networks provide a scalable, reliable infrastructure for Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to enable care and health staff to access information they need to deliver personalised care, such as an individual’s movement patterns or air quality in their home.  Analytics software enhanced with Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities could introduce non-intrusive remote monitoring of people, including those with additional needs (including drug adherence, breathing and biometrics), while maintaining data privacy standards. 

Research suggests that video conferencing and real-time monitoring will free up 1.1 million hours for GPs that can be directed towards patient care instead of administrative tasks, and reduce social care budgets by an estimated five per cent, saving £890 million to reinvest in other services that can benefit the population. 5G-powered telemedicine will help to decentralise healthcare — facilitating a necessary transition from reactive to preventative practices.  Potential risks can be identified earlier and resolved more rapidly before illnesses or unwanted situations arise, helping to deliver better outcomes for people.  It also means that individuals will be able to access the specialists they need, wherever they are based - something that is particularly of value to those in rural or remote locations where travelling to see specialists can be costly, time-consuming and inconvenient.  This is not about removing human interaction from health and social care; instead 5G’s capabilities could assist health and social care workers, ultimately delivering better outcomes and benefits for individuals and the wider system, helping to reduce pressure on general practice, hospitals and social care.

Some consumers and care providers may have concerns about the reliability of devices and wireless connections, particularly in more rural areas. 5G has a high bandwidth and capabilities that provide more robust connectivity than 4G. Its ability to utilise mobile edge computing also enables longer device battery life. Advanced connectivity, and the solutions it enables, will have a major impact on loneliness and quality of life, too: patients living alone are 50% more likely to access emergency care services and are 40% more likely to have more than 12 GP appointments in a year. The benefits of 5G’s connectivity for the health and social care sector must not be understated.  From accessing care digitally or using smartphone apps to manage sleep patterns and find like-minded people to socialise with — 5G can help build towards a happier, healthier population.

How Could 5G Facilitate Wellness, Self-care and Prevention?

Continuous Monitoring in Care Settings

Non-invasive remote monitoring of patients in hospitals and care homes could enable more effective treatment and support, as well as a shift to preventative care. Although already possible, 5G facilitates machine-learning and mobile edge computing that enables far more devices to be connected — offering unprecedented richness of data that can be automatically analysed without slowing down the connection. With 5G more data is encrypted and it is easier to monitor and spot potential security threats, meaning it is well suited for managing sensitive data. This isn’t about technology replacing care, rather it facilitates real-time monitoring at a greater breadth and depth of scale than has previously been possible, enabling workers to then deliver quicker and more effective treatment and support for individuals. It can also help to reduce pressure on stretched workers, helping them to focus on delivering high quality care.

Where has this been done?
Remote Care Monitoring of Those With Long-Term Conditions

5G, with its high bandwidth and low latency, can facilitate continuous real-time monitoring of people in their own homes through sensors and wearables, creating rapid responses to emergencies. This data can be accessed by all those providing care, including family, and reduce the need for GP appointments, district nurse and hospital visits — while providing greater data and insight than would be possible through a daily visit or weekly appointment.  Importantly, this means issues can be identified before they become critical. Devices connected to 5G are expected to consume less power, reducing concerns over battery life, while more data is encrypted and it is easier to monitor and spot potential security threats on 5G networks, making it well suited for managing sensitive data.  With increased quality and timeliness of care, remote monitoring can have a positive impact on individuals’ lives, offering them greater independence and confidence in their own homes, increased flexibility in their daily lives through not having to wait in for care visits, and a reduced need to explain their care and support needs, outcomes, and experiences multiple times.  It can also offer operational efficiencies and scale to care and support providers. Research shows that this technology could free up 1.1 million hours for GPs and 5G-enabled telecare will help reduce social care budgets by around five per cent, saving £890 million to reinvest in other services.  

Where has this been done?
Remote Care Monitoring of Vulnerable Individuals

Remote monitoring of vulnerable individuals offers greater independence and enables more efficient delivery of services, requiring less home visits. 5G’s ability to support a far greater density of devices — from air quality monitors to connected toothbrushes — facilitates more comprehensive, contextual and secure continuous monitoring, with low latency ensuring real-time detection of issues before they become emergency situations. This can reduce time-consuming and inconvenient visits to GP surgeries or hospitals, as well as providing significantly more data points than an individual daily home visit or weekly appointment.  As a result, workers have much more insight into people’s health and behaviours, meaning individuals can benefit from quicker interventions, more preventative-based care and better outcomes, as well as the freedom of not having to wait in for long periods of time for welfare visits.  This should also create less strain on social care.

Where has this been done?
Remote Care Monitoring for Supported Discharge

With an overnight stay in a hospital bed costing the NHS £400 a night, extended stays and the issue of bed blocking have huge financial implications on a budget-constrained sector. The National Audit Office found that after spending just 10 days in hospital, a patient’s health can deteriorate to such an extent that it reduces their life expectancy by 10 years, with the average 67-year-old admitted to hospital in reasonably good health losing 14 per cent of their hip and muscle strength after just ten days.  Australian academics have reported the elderly can lose as much as 5 per cent of their muscle strength for every day they spend in hospital.  But 5G’s high bandwidth, reliability and ultra-low latency enables pervasive real-time monitoring that allows hospitals to discharge patients earlier, with greater confidence.  With 5G more data is encrypted and it is easier to monitor and spot potential security threats, meaning it is well suited for managing sensitive data. 

Where has this been done?
Supporting Medication Adherence

Adherence to prescription regimes is a key challenge, with between an estimated 35 and 60 percent of people not taking their medications as required. The impact can be significant on health outcomes and is traditionally managed by resource-intensive care worker visits to people’s homes. But 5G’s increased bandwidth, reliability and security presents a solution. Through the use of video-enabled medication adherence, connecting qualified pharmacists and carers directly to the patient via high resolution video will ensure the correct precipitation and dosage is taken at the right time. Trials have calculated this could save over £200,000 per 100 users, per year.

Where has this been done?
Improving Quality of Life & Wellbeing

5G can be used to successfully deliver technology solutions beyond remote monitoring⁠ — improving general wellbeing, especially amongst those with additional needs or long-term, debilitative and terminal illnesses. The robust and secure connectivity 5G offers can be used to deliver mobile apps that can support individuals both within and outside their homes: The British Journal of Psychiatry identified that digital apps can lead to greater engagement with wellbeing - from tackling loneliness to better sleep management - and earlier detection of mental health issues. The high bandwidth and low latency of 5G networks can also enable immersive experiences through augmented and virtual reality.

Where has this been done?
Tackling Loneliness & Social Isolation

Loneliness can have a debilitating impact on both mental and physical health, as well as putting additional strain on health and social care services. People who live alone are 50% more likely to access emergency care services and are 40% more likely to have 12 or more GP appointments a year; this can often be attributed to social isolation as much as complex medical needs. Indeed, the Campaign to End Loneliness reports that at least one in 10 people visiting a GP surgery attend because they are lonely. These statistics are even more concerning when you consider that the number of 55 to 64 year olds living on their own has increased by 50 per cent in the last 15 years. It is of course not only the older population who experience loneliness; living on your own at any age, being an unpaid carer, having a disability or suffering from poor mental health can all contribute to feelings of social isolation. 

From virtual collaboration solutions to gaming apps and even emotional robots, 5G’s high bandwidth, reliability and low latency enables the health and social care sector to tackle this problem head on.

Where has this been done?
Empowering Vulnerable Individuals

Empowering people to flourish in their own homes benefits both the individual and the health and social care sector. 5G technology can provide prompts to individuals to support their self-care, which enables people to live richer lives and enhances wellbeing. This will, in turn, reduce pressure on social care.

Where has this been done?