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Indian drug development, clinical trials and healthcare embrace 5G to propel intelligent data management

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Thursday, November 24, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

For drug development and clinical trials, Indian pharma is looking at 5G to spur the integration of internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. On the healthcare front, 5G is increasingly seen to bridge the gap between the urban and rural primary healthcare.

5G can enable improved bandwidth allowing faster real-time data transfer of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) in pharma and healthcare which depend on high speed connectivity. Currently, India needs a 5G infrastructure upgrade to offset the digital divide. There is a need for a framework to leverage data in pharma research and healthcare outcomes, said experts at the Future Tech Congress on the session titled ‘5G in healthcare: Are we ready?’

According to Ravi Ramaswamy, Chair, Organising Committee, Future Tech Congress, the Covid pandemic has been a force multiplier in the adoption of digital health at scale. Now this is possible only if there are connected devices to seamlessly transfer data. By 2030, the world is expected to have 29 million connected devices. Cloud deployment to accelerate the pace of portability of data is also gaining traction. All this calls for low latency and high speed networks powered with 5G. 
Noting that 5G is indispensable and the future, Kamala Rai, vice president and senior global programme head, Novartis said that this would help upgrade the drug discovery and clinical trials space. The human studies could be shifted from trial sites to homes with constant and close monitoring on patient outcome with the new drugs administered. It will convert chaos of managing data to intelligent information about patient response.

Although the pharma sector in India has been slow to respond to digital technology except the pharmacy retail sector that was the first to go for it, 5G is now gaining ground as world over 86 to 90 of the clinical studies have opted to take the digital pathway. It will also upgrade the lab sensor technology, said Rai.

To this end, pharma industry in the country will engage and adopt the required guidance framework to embrace 5G. Investments are being made for AI, big data and cloud computing, Rai said.

5G which is currently available only in 13 cities according to Satkeerthi M, CTO, Airtel will now be made available at least across 100 cities between December 2022 and February 2023. This would transform the healthcare front as technology connected ambulances with vehicle tracking systems doubled up as intensive care units can provide efficient patient care and hospital management in rural areas. For this Airtel is looking to partner with healthcare providers and start-ups for patients to have immediate access to medical attention.

From a medical equipment perspective, Aditya Vikram Manpuria, director, Software Engineering, GE Healthcare said that 5G will transform healthcare delivery with tele-medicine consultations to gain momentum. Particularly post surgery and critical continuum, patient monitoring will move closer to home. For medical device providers too, 5G is a huge growth opportunity and to this end GE also has invested in a 5G Lab.

Sudeep Dey, chief information officer, Healthcare Global Enterprises Limited said that clinical trials at hospitals use IoT . Even with 5G here, there is a dire need for network reliability as in oncology changes are happening every 70 days. Hence, we need an efficient network. For instance genomics study in cancer care needs transmission of 100 GB processed data besides and curated data of 70 GB needs to transferred in a few hours. All this requires speed and reliability and 5G can only allow efficient data management.


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