Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) and the NHS have collaborated to build the UK’s ‘first 5G connected hospital,’ which they say will transform healthcare. The Maudsley Smart Hospital and Maudsley Smart Pharmacy trials are funded by NHS digital with tech provided by VMO2 and Nokia, and are designed to explore the efficiency, safety and security benefits of using 5G-connected technologies in hospitals, across the usual catch-all 5G adjacent sectors of IoT, AR and AI.
Two wards at al Bethlem Royal Hospital in South London 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. It seems to be implied interacting with the equipment over 5G will be more efficient than using the hospital’s WiFi network.
The 5G trials will also include an IoT innovation lab and platform, in partnership with Bruhati (South London and Maudsley has made Bruhati its partner for providing IoT technology to the Trust). This will look at smart, connected use cases – including remotely monitoring medicine fridges to ensure drugs are stored at the optimum temperature and thereby reducing expensive waste, tracking the air quality inside wards, and monitoring occupancy of desks and meeting rooms in the hospital.
An Augmented Reality (AR) tool called Remote Expert will allow maintenance workers in other hospitals to pop on a helmet and remotely help fix problems in some way, while an AI tool called Spatial Insights generates anonymised heat maps of crowd movement from CCTV footage, which will apparently help them to better plan layouts in the future. There is also talk of smart devices and monitoring to reduce medicine waste and track the air quality in wards, which sounds useful enough.
Mike Smith, Large Enterprise & Public Sector Director at Virgin Media O2 Business said: “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. 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 said: “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.”
Kester Mann, technology analyst and Director, Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, said: “This is a landmark moment for the UK telecoms and healthcare sectors. Dedicated 5G in hospitals can open the door to a range of new applications such as real-time tracking of patients’ conditions, remote support and round-the-clock monitoring of medicines and equipment. Its high throughput and low-latency characteristics can also improve the efficiency and security of existing operations, making healthcare services smarter, more accurate and more effective.”
If the NHS trials can demonstrate how the implementation of AI heatmaps for planning layouts and AR headsets for maintenance workers can start taking chunks out of how long it takes to be treated for immediate and long term conditions, then everyone will surely be behind rolling it out elsewhere.