The Frankfurt University Hospital will receive its own dedicated 5G network thanks to Vodafone with support from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) digital programme, an EU fund with a mandate to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment in Europe.
The dedicated 5G network will help connect doctors, nurses, patients and support staff in innovative and potentially lifesaving ways.
The fast and highly responsive nature of 5G is ideal for bringing together specialists dispersed across multiple sites at the Frankfurt University Hospital to enhance patient care and surgical procedures. Diagnostic data such as ultrasound and computerised tomography (CT) scan information can be transmitted in real-time to wherever it is needed most.
For example, the heart surgeons and cardiology experts can convene via the digital consultation portal (Tele-Heart-UHF) connected to 5G to quickly determine whether a patient showing shortness of breath requires urgent medical attention.
Vodafone is installing more than 180 5G sites across the hospital’s 32 departments, 10 specialised centres and 25 institutes to provide widespread indoor and outdoor coverage by mid-2024. The 5G service will support many of the 800 specialists and 1,400 nurses working at the hospital, as well as the 50,000 inpatients and 200,000 outpatients who are cared for each year.
CEF Digital Funds Programme
The project, which is expected to be completed by June 2025, would not have been possible without the €3.3 million of additional funding awarded under the CEF Digital programme. Greater private-public collaboration is vital if the €300 billion investment gap to fully deploy 5G across Europe under the EU’s vision is to be met.
The €3.3 million funding application contributes to the overall cost of €4.5 million and was also supported by both the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport and the Minister for Digital Strategy and Development.
“With this project, we are transforming the Frankfurt University Hospital into a fully networked, digitised hospital,” said Science Minister Angela Dorn.
“As a full-service provider, the Frankfurt University Hospital is already a key centre for the treatment of complicated cases and rare diseases. In such cases, it is important to perceive digitisation as a strategic task so that data can be exchanged quickly and securely. The 5G expansion is an important infrastructure milestone for achieving this.”
Compliance to International Security Standards
The new network meets all the requirements for critical applications in the medical sector and does not interfere with any medical devices that work with electromagnetic fields, such as CT scanners.
The aim is also for information security in the 5G network at the hospital to adhere to DIN-ISO 27001 - the world’s best-known standard for information security management systems (ISMS).
Digital Medical Messengers
In addition to remote diagnostics, 5G is also being used to support Frankfurt University Hospital’s medical messenger service, called Famedly. This enables the transfer of chat history between hospital staff to be sent directly to the patient’s file, along with vital data from, for example, biosensors and anesthesia documentation.
Today’s announcement also follows the news that the University Hospital of Düsseldorf (UKD) has safely flown a drone delivering nutrition solutions for premature babies from the central pharmacy to the children’s ward. In a test flight, the 5G-controlled drone covered 450 metres in 40 seconds, replacing the usual courier service. This is allowing the hospital to explore the automation of routine processes – all using fast, reliable and prioritised air transport powered by 5G.
5G has also been used in Italy to connect a heart surgeon at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, with a remote medical device specialist. Surgeons learning to use new medical devices are usually guided in the operating theatre by a device expert or proctor. With 5G, the proctor can now provide this support remotely.
The use of 5G in medical settings to improve patient care, transport critical equipment or facilitate remote learning clearly shows the advantages of dedicated 5G networks, and the EU funding support is essential to expanding these opportunities.
Serving 5.6 million people in Hessen
Vodafone’s 5G network goes much further than the Frankfurt University Hospital. In addition to connecting other hospitals in the region of Hessen, for which Frankfurt is the financial capital, Vodafone has extended 5G more widely with the network now covering 5.6 million people with plans to reach 90% of households by 2025.
The development of new services like VR and AI over 5G to support future healthcare applications will fuel further data demands on for high-speed digital networks. Progressive partnerships like the one between Frankfurt University Hospital and Vodafone are the way forward to meeting the EU’s 2030 ‘5G for all’ connectivity targets and giving European citizens access to world leading healthcare.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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