Connecting Liverpool: How mmWave will transform healthcare

In OECD countries, Health and Social Care spending accounts for 21% of GDP – or $7,800 per capita. While this level of spending is significant, increased budgets may seem like the most logical step to take in order to improve service levels. Often, as the OECD states, this is a dangerous assumption to make. The true challenge facing the sector as a whole is to use existing budgets more effectively.

As part of the Liverpool Testbed – one of six Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) 5G projects – Blu Wireless have been working with several SMEs and public sector organisations on a trial deployment to assess the benefits of mmWave connectivity to the Health and Social Care sector, optimising services and reducing costs for local authorities.

mmWave Technology

mmWave connections are achieved via a Distribution Network (DN) node linked to the main fibre network, which provides multiple beams – essentially high performance “invisible fibres” – designed to support multiple properties. This wireless Point to Multi-Point (PtMP) technology can be built into lampposts and other street furniture, which councils own or control nationwide, meaning that installation is affordable, easy and swift.

By using a software-controlled self-organising network (SON), PtMP technology creates a mesh network which is able to use the optimal path for traffic through reconfiguration. This unseen sophistication allows the connection to self-repair or self-heal ensuring the resilient connections necessary for the next generation of Health and Social Care services.

Transforming Healthcare with the Liverpool Testbed

Around 50 inpatients at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT) and 150 users of Liverpool Adult Social Services will be provided with access to applications based on the high-bandwidth broadband network as part of the Liverpool Testbed. Ultimately, this will prove that 5G technologies are an essential element of a truly holistic and efficient Health and Social Care service.

For example, through mmWave connectivity, Blu Wireless’ Liverpool Testbed partner DefProc can make their “Push to Talk” technology a reality. The system is both ingenious and simple, taking the form of a button. When pressed, an elderly person feeling lonely is connected to other users who have pressed the button, hoping to form networks and friendships between old people who are housebound or have significant mobility challenges.

Another Liverpool Testbed partner, DigiCreDis have devised a hydration monitor that can be used in the home which measures the make-up of urine and sends data back to Social Care organisations. This provides an immediate indication of their health and needs, allowing social care workers to detect early signs of dehydration.

Protelhealth, meanwhile, have developed a system which allows medication taken at home to be overseen remotely by pharmacy professionals via video link from a centralised location. This both unburdens carers from taking responsibility for a patient’s medication, increasing capacity within services and tackling the crucial issue of compliance by ensuring that patients themselves are reaping the benefits of their prescribed medication. Moreover, as the NHS loses an estimated £300 million per year on unused medication, significant inroads into pharmaceutical waste reduction can be made by quickly identifying which prescriptions are being avoided by patients.

The Future is Now

While innovative ideas to tackle the problems faced by the Health and Social Care sector already exist, only affordable, fibre-quality connections make it possible to deploy them in the community. The Liverpool Testbed will prove how mmWave technology can be leveraged to reduce financial impacts on local authorities while delivering significantly better care.

Far from being a prototype, the Testbed – which runs until March 2019 – will display the transformative impact mmWave connectivity can have on the Health and Social Care sector in the immediate term, proving its viability to the wider world.