The Maudsley Smart Hospital and Maudsley Smart Pharmacy trials, funded by NHS digital with tech provided by VMO2 and Nokia, are designed to examinethe efficiency, safety, and security advantages of using 5G-connected technologies in hospitals, across the usual umbrella 5G adjacent sectors of IoT, AR, and AI.
At Bethlem Royal Hospital in South London, two wards are now using “dedicated, near-real-time connectivity to power e-Observations, where clinicians use handheld devices to update patient records, saving valuable time and improving accuracy.” Though unclear what that exactly entails, it seems that utilizing 5G to interact with the equipment will be more efficient than on the hospital’s Wi-Fi.
An AR tool called Remote Expert will enable maintenance workers in other hospitals to remotely help fix problems, while an AI tool called Spatial Insights generates anonymized heat maps of crowd movement from CCTV footage, which they claim will help them to better plan layouts in the future. There is also mention of smart devices and monitoring to reduce medicine waste and track the air quality in hospital wards.
“The NHS has been a cornerstone of British society for nearly 75 years, and today, we’re proud to announce the switch-on of the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital – showing how next-generation technology can help create a smarter, modern healthcare service for everyone,” said Mike Smith, Large Enterprise and Public Sector Director at Virgin Media O2 Business. “Our aim is to map out the rollout of wireless and smart hospital connectivity across the NHS estate over the next three to five years. Trials like this are the embodiment of our mission to upgrade the UK, and a clear sign of the role we can play in helping to shape the NHS of the future.”
Stuart MacLellan, Acting Chief Information Officer at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust added: “Exploring and using the latest technology supports our core strategic aim to deliver outstanding mental health care for people who use our services, their carers, and families. We are proud to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 Business to create the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital, which enables us to use digital innovations to improve patient outcomes. This is a very exciting step forward.”
That’s all well and good (and some of the aforementioned use cases do suggest how 5G might be more practically useful in a medical setting than in previous instances, such as remote surgeons operating on patients miles away), but no amount of pomp around 5G-connected gadgets is going to impress anyone who had to wait in A&E for hours or has been on a waiting list for six months.
However, should the NHS and its tech partners succed in showing how the use of AI heatmaps for planning layouts and AR headsets for maintenance workers can start cutting down on how long it takes to treat both acute and chronic conditions, then everyone will surely be in favor of their implementation. Otherwise, the purpose of all this technology investments is less clear.