What Are Next-Gen Networks Bringing to Healthcare?

HemaliWhat does it mean to live in the “Gigabit Internet” world of infinite access, unimaginable speed, and constant connectivity?  Does it mean we can live healthier?

High-speed networks that aren’t managed by your region’s cable company or the big telecoms are all the rage when it comes to Internet access.  After much success in Kansas City, Google Fiber technology is expanding to new markets, specifically Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and Nashville.  Municipal broadband networks are proving success in cities like Chattanooga, TN and Tacoma, WA.  Nearly 60MM across the US still remain without Internet connection, will these new high-speed options bridge the digital gap? What are the implications for healthcare, given all the digital innovation in the sector and its reliance on fatter pipes?

The average broadband speed of internet in the US is 9.8 megabits per second, Google Fiber is typically 10X faster at 1 gigabit per second.  In theory, this can completely change the impact for everything from site load up times to web-browsing behavior to engagement. At those speeds, overall digital consumption habits can change as video and other bandwidth-intensive media are less affected by last-mile slowdowns that cause consumer frustration. Television and digital channels are more intertwined as high-speed networks power both media with fewer concerns about bandwidth.  This technology opens up a new economy for more reliable online streaming of videos, movies, and TV shows, now that subscribers can stream high definition video content with no delays or buffering issues at amazing speeds.  Perhaps this may shift more viewers into the online video world.  Common tasks such as file uploads and downloads, file transferring, storage will all occur within seconds.  .

Beyond the entertainment capabilities, though, high-speed networks will have vast impact on the medical healthcare system, as Kansas City has demonstrated.  Currently, Google Fiber is actively working with the Kansas Medical Center to improve patient engagement.  The plan is to build the new future face of healthcare by enabling new ways for patients and physicians to interact.   Instead of driving to visit  physicians, KC residents are chatting via video tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and ooVoo.  With fewer connectivity issues, physicians are able to engage and treat patients more effectively after their initial visit.

Could this method disrupt pediatric care?  For most, the common cold, fever, stomach aches may no longer require actual visits, pediatricians will actively FaceTime to provide care.  Google Fiber could put the final nail in the coffin of physician faxes.  HCP Social media platforms, such as Doximity are actively implementing features that allow physicians communicate and send e-faxes in a safe, HIPAA-compliant manner.  With speed and no issues associated with large files, there will be limited hesitation from the clinical community to pass along information digitally.

Perhaps we will now be able to sit in a rural health clinic, streaming three dimensional medical imaging over the Internet, and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in NY.  We may end up living in a world of more integrated treatment and social managed care.   Advancements will continue in “wearable technologies,” high-engineered medical apps and potentially transform the patient-physician dialogue.

Perhaps a side benefit of these high-speed networks is what they do for our economic health, as well.  Kansas City’s Fiber neighborhoods show a real economic difference.  Startup companies are flocking to the area.  One person even started “Homes for Hackers,” out of his Kansas City home.  He allows entrepreneurs to live there, exchanging “gigabytes” for rent money.  KC is becoming a growing technology center and that’s mainly due to fiber.  Today KC residents are living in a city where the common conversation is about distance education, smart grids, telemedicine, and Web 3.0.  Perhaps other cities will follow.

Hemali Lakhani is an experienced media professional with proven success in integrated media planning across high profile brands in the healthcare/pharmaceutical, automotive, retail, and financial services categories.  With over ten years of experience in strategic media planning, her expertise lies with developing strategic integrated solutions across clients such as Gilead, Valvoline, GE, Visa & IKEA.  Hemali has her BA from Pace University, Lubin School of Management and is in her final semester completing her MBA from Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business concentrating in media and marketing.  In addition, Ms. Lakhani resides in Long Island City, NY with her husband and two beautiful little girls, Maya and Arianna.

  • Cindy Seebeck

    This is a thought provoking article Hemali. In the process of advancement will we lose the all important doctor/patient connection and trust?