Internet of Things, or IoT, has rapidly transformed many different industries, healthcare being one of them. One of its latest impacts has been on the future of surgery. IoT is a complex subject. At its simplest definition, IoT is a network of interconnected objects connected to an IP address to access the internet. Through this, the objects and other connected devices can communicate and exchange data. IoT has life-changing implications when it is integrated into surgery.
One example of IoT in healthcare was the recent surgery by Ling Zhipei, a chief physician at the People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing. Ling performed a three-hour operation that required fitting a deep brain stimulation implant, all from 3,000 kilometers away! Even though he was located so far away, he was still able to manipulate the instruments remotely thanks to the IoT.
Using a 5G network was the key to the operation’s success. Previous network generations were not reliable enough to perform such an intricate procedure. There would have been too much of a delay between actions and responses. Unlike its predecessors, the 5G network does not have any video lag, meaning that surgeons can perform in real time. According to Ling, “you barely feel that the patient is 3,000 kilometers away.”
This first remote brain surgery is ushering in a new era of robotics and medicine. Thanks to a reliable 5G network, surgeons are able to operate in real time from remote locations. One day, patients who live in rural areas may still have access to world-class healthcare and surgeons through remote procedures. There is still plenty of work to be done, and such an idea will not become a reality overnight. Remote operations, however, may be more realistic than we initially imagined.
While routine remote surgery is still in the future, remote health monitoring, or telehealth, is already making waves. Patients can speak with a doctor from their computer or smartphone. The doctor can diagnose them, as well as prescribe any medicines. This helps alleviate the need for in-person visits, as well as cuts costs. Telehealth also helps improve a patient’s quality of life by letting them visit a doctor from the comfort of their own home.
Telehealth is especially useful when patients have limited mobility or find it difficult to access transportation. Living in remote areas can restrict access to healthcare, but IoT helps connect people so they can receive the care they need.