LIVE FROM MWC SHANGHAI: Dr Liu Jun, VP of Shanghai General Hospital (pictured, centre), highlighted the potential for 5G to radically change healthcare in China, as it moves towards deploying the technology in partnership with China Mobile.

Installing 5G networks at the hospital’s facilities will enable applications including connecting a fleet of ambulances to reduce response times and enable paramedics to offer the same treatments to patients as they would receive in the hospital itself.

Liu said 5G enables an ambulance to connect to hospital monitoring devices, for example ultrasound, in near real time to give patients improved care. The technology will also enable tele-mentoring in operating theatres, which could enable staff in major city hospitals to guide colleagues in smaller, regional facilities through complex procedures.

“We think 5G is going to change the future of healthcare,” he said. “It will definitely play a role in remote surgery and will also be an important tool for training medical staff.”

With costs rising in China, he noted hospitals will need to match the capabilities of 5G with new medical procedures to improve efficiency and lower costs.

During the panel discussion, Dr Antonio De Lacy, head of gastrointestinal surgery service at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, took time out to advise a team of surgeons at the Shanghai East Hospital on a live operation in near real time using a 5G connection.

The demonstration is a follow-up of from the first tele-mentored surgery over a 5G connection, which was performed in late February between the Fira Gran Via and Hospital Clinic de Barcelona.

From a screen at the MWC19 venue in Shanghai, Dr de Lacy again drew recommended incision points and pointed out potential problem areas.

John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA, said the demo shows “the future is not proof of concept, it’s reality”.

He added the rollout of 5G in China is an opportunity for patients, not only in specialised cases where they have access to the best care, but anywhere across the country.

This will allow medical personnel “not only be mentored but taught to enhance their skills for all the right reasons, to the betterment of the patient”, he said.