Vodafone UK: How 5G and IoT tech will transform healthcare
A National Health Service (NHS) fit for the 21st century will need to harness the latest technology driven by 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) as it moves forward from COVID-19, according to Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK.
Sheehan recognises how the NHS rose to the challenge of the pandemic. “Through innovation and hard work, it changed its ways of working at speed, with technology central to its ability to continue functioning effectively and serving the people who depend on it.”
Vodafone UK has produced a report, Better health, connected health, which takes an in-depth look at how 5G and IoT will transform the healthcare service of the future. Sheehan said the pandemic helped to transform the NHS at short notice - but it promises so much more in the future.
“The possibilities unleashed by 5G and IoT touch almost every part of the healthcare system, from the visible – think of remotely assisted surgery, or drones carrying transplant organs and drugs between hospitals – to the unseen but vital – think of IoT-enabled hospital equipment management systems using sensors to monitor stock levels automatically,” she said.
According to the report the public believe 40 new NHS hospitals, promised by the Government by 2030, should be fully equipped with the latest digital technology, including 5G.
“We have a perfect opportunity to ensure that digital technology is designed in from the start, so that the hospitals of the future can use the technology of the future.
“Healthcare has always been an early adopter of new technologies to help make it better, faster and more efficient. It is vital that the NHS be given the opportunity to maximise the benefits of the next big technological innovations, driven by 5G, as it has in the past.”
10 ways 5G technology can transform healthcare according to the WPI strategy report for Vodafone UK:
- Remote assisted surgery and training
5G’s high capacity and low latency will enable surgeons to use augmented reality (AR) technology to provide remote expert guidance on surgery without needing to be in the same operating theatre – or even the same country.
Drones can be used to transport medical assets including organs for transplant quickly and more cheaply than by courier. In July, Vodafone announced a partnership with Skyports and Deloitte to use drones to transport medical supplies for NHS Scotland. Vodafone UK is now calling on the government to increase the number of drone trials in the UK with a fund of £30m, with emphasis on using cellular connectivity to support registration, tracking and beyond-visual-line-of-sight applications.
- Data sharing
The speed and capacity of 5G means large files, such as MRI scans, can easily be shared securely for review between clinicians in real time, enabling more patients to be moved along the care pathway more quickly.
- 5G-connected ambulances
5G connectivity can link paramedics working with a patient in an ambulance with a hospital clinician using high-resolution video and tools. Clinicians can examine the patient remotely and prescribe urgent treatment that the paramedics can carry out before the patient arrives at hospital. Vodafone UK is calling on the government to invest £10 million in 10 ambulances per trust in England.
- Asset tracking
Every time NHS equipment, from wheelchairs to bed linen, goes missing it costs the NHS money. Low-cost trigger tags on assets, combined with a series of beacons which constantly monitor where they are, means they can be found if they go missing or tracked if they are stolen.
- Smart buildings
IoT devices can be used in buildings to monitor how space is used and ensure that energy is only used where it is needed such as smart heating and ventilation systems only used when spaces are occupied.
- Heat detection cameras
The Vodafone Heat Detection Camera can screen the body temperature of patients, visitors and staff to help provide reassurance at a time of concern about COVID-19 infection, but also beyond.
- Social and technological prescribing
Technology such as wearable devices and monitoring systems can help people to stay healthy by living more active lifestyles, and support those with chronic conditions.
In Greece, the Vodafone Foundation Telemedicine Programme uses mobile technology combined with next generation medical devices to provide specialised healthcare, regardless of location.
- Connected Living
Vodafone’s Connected Living helps people with care needs to receive tailored and personalised support.
A poll carried out on behalf of Vodafone UK shows most of the public want the NHS to use 5G and IoT applications. Four-out-of-five of those polled say they would like to see 5G-connected ambulances. Three-out-of-five back the use of 5G remote assisted surgery and drone technology and believe that video consultations are more convenient than visiting a GP surgery or hospital. A total of 57% would be comfortable having medical appointments via video even once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
“By committing to make the NHS the world’s leading 5G healthcare provider, the Government can ensure that healthcare professionals and workers have the very best technology they need to do their jobs effectively,” said Sheehan.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”