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5G infrastructure: Essential for bringing hospitals to the cloud

Partnerships and Investments Manager

VP, Wireless Technologies

Category & Hashtags
image of doctor and patent in hospital

Partnerships and Investments Manager

VP, Wireless Technologies

Partnerships and Investments Manager

Contributor (+1)

VP, Wireless Technologies

Category & Hashtags

As new devices and applications place ever-increasing burdens on existing infrastructures, healthcare organizations are looking to edge architecture to bring computing power to the hospital while centralizing data. At hospitals across the world, data exists in silos. Patients can go undiagnosed with different diseases because MRI scan or echocardiogram results are difficult to share. To transform healthcare, we need robust connectivity. The building blocks for this digital infrastructure are high performance connectivity and cloud software that enable easy sharing of data between experts.

In order to explore the benefits of a private 5G network for hospitals, Ericsson recently partnered with BevelCloud, an edge-cloud cloud service provider which provides secure, scalable, managed edge compute, storage, data, network and application services. The companies joined together to trial a private edge network for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, California.

Why is 5G important for hospitals of the future?

Edge applications are bringing new levels of performance to medical research. As an example, imagine a COVID-19 diagnostic being built from a large data set using either traditional learning methods or federated learning techniques. Once created, an inference engine could be deployed at the point of care - the edge. Edge applications also include production applications developed by independent software vendors. Examples include clinical collaboration applications, image exchange applications and applications to improve the productivity of the clinical/biomedical engineer. These are just a few examples out of thousands of potential healthcare applications.

BevelCloud was founded with the mission to connect all 1,000,000 healthcare machines in all 500 children’s hospitals in the world and create a digital infrastructure to transform children’s healthcare. The managed edge compute and storage enables edge cloud applications to be created. Edge cloud applications are those which require lower latency, lower network cost and increased privacy versus center cloud applications.

“AI in medicine faces three fundamental challenges. First, how do you acquire enough data to fuel training. Second, how do you implement AI while protecting privacy and finally, once developed how is the software going to be deployed at the point of care.  We believe the edge cloud services we’ve developed answers all three challenges and see 5G technology as the network backbone of this new model of computing,” said Timothy Chou, CEO of BevelCloud.

At the same time, 5G infrastructure can greatly simplify hospital deployment and also deliver high levels of performance and reliability. There is a need for high bandwidth communication out of the machine both because there can be large amounts of data, but also because some machines (ultrasounds) have the ability to stream data in real-time. Furthermore, edge servers could be used in a federated learning model, which may require high speed edge server-to-edge server communications.

In order to support ubiquitous broadband connectivity to BevelCloud edge servers in hospital buildings regardless of the existing IT infrastructure or capabilities, private 5G that can be mounted outside the perimeter of the hospital building is being explored. For example, several private 5G base stations/access points could be scattered around the perimeter of the building(s) aimed into the buildings. They could be mounted on existing light poles in much the same fashion as security cameras. Power and wired inter/intranet connectivity would be provided.


Trial at Stanford’s Packard Children’s Hospital

Earlier this year, Ericsson and BevelCloud trialed a private edge network for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to enable faster, more reliable data transfer for enhanced patient care.

At Lucile Packard, private cellular radio equipment positioned outside the hospital allowed 5G coverage from the “outside in”, ensuring fast, reliable data delivery no matter where a doctor or technician may be at the hospital.

Ericsson conducted a proof of concept test using a Cellsite On Light Truck (COLT) platform that allowed for testing of optimal locations for the radio equipment before mounting on existing light poles. The poles can be fed fiber and power for future installations.

We worked with BevelCloud to understand what is needed to provide a private 5G network at all 500 children’s hospitals and how to make that viable. But first, we wanted to test at a real site, which the team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford agreed to support. We thought the LPCH facility would be particularly demanding since it was built recently with lots of reflective glass for energy efficiency and rebar because the hospital is in an earthquake country.

“We were impressed with the performance of the network and the commitment of Ericson to this ambitious project,” said Anshul Pande, CTO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

A private 5G base station/access point was temporarily set up at several locations, as seen in the picture below, around the Stanford LPCH hospital building, while a private 5G Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)/User Equipment (UE) device was moved to various locations inside the hospital, while an ethernet connected Laptop PC was used to record coverage and throughput.


What did we discover?

We took a big step in our collective vision to build a digital infrastructure, which could transform children’s healthcare locally, nationally and globally. It's clear that from a small number of locations around the perimeter of Stanford Children’s hospital complete coverage of patient rooms, and hallways can be effectively provided with a private 5G broadband network, delivering multi megabit performance. This type of connectivity between hospital equipment and edge servers and between the edge servers will serve as an effective infrastructure for applications which range from simple collaboration to advanced artificial intelligence. For hospitals that do not have adequate Wi-Fi or DAS systems capable of carrying the BevelCloud edge server traffic, an overlay private 5G solution proved to be a viable alternative.

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