AT&T builds private 5G network to help cancer patients

The image above shows a breast cancer pathology slide on the left, and the same slide on the right overlaid with an AI-generated heat map. Los Angeles's Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine (named for Oracle founder Larry Ellison) uses this image to show how artificial intelligence can save lives and transform patient outcomes. Now, the Ellison Institute is investing in 5G to help scale AI to help more patients.

AT&T is building a millimeter wave (mmWave) private 5G network with multi-access edge computing (MEC) for the Ellison Institute. The carrier said the Ellison Institute is among the first medical facilities in the country using 5G to help advance cancer research. The doctors want to use the network to collect and transmit data from patients and connected devices.

“This collaboration is developing programs to use 5G to collect data from patients, healthcare providers and scientists, as well as using the Internet of Things to effectively manage our clinic and labs," said Dr. David Agus, CEO of the Ellison Institute.

Agus and his team want to capture and analyze data in the clinics and labs instead of sending it to the cloud for analysis. The 5G private network with MEC is meant to provide a fast and more secure way to do this. One example is 3D tumor imaging. Doctors say that with the bandwidth of the private 5G network they will be able to accomplish this on site, which will increase privacy, security and efficiency.  

"Data is at the core of everything we do at the Ellison Institute, and our work with AT&T enables us to capture and employ that data in meaningful ways that benefit science and our patients,” Agus said. Once the network is in place, healthcare providers will have wireless flat screen devices available, which they can use to send large files over the 5G network. 

Each patient will receive a connected digital bracelet upon arrival, and all researchers and staff will wear connected sensors. These will be used to measure and monitor doctor/patient interaction levels.

The network will also be connected to other systems in the buildings, like sound and lighting systems. Patients will be able to request specific music and lighting during a procedure.

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According to Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, 5G will be an enabler for telemedicine as well. She said the COVID-19 pandemic taught the healthcare industry that there is value in monitoring and treating patients remotely, and that 5G's speeds and lower latencies can help. Chow also noted that 5G can deliver "the near real-time data healthcare providers need to make quick decisions."

In addition to the mmWave network, AT&T will provide a private 5G network on lower band spectrum for more traditional wireless communication between smartphones and other connected devices within the Ellison Institute.

AT&T's work with the Ellison Institute illustrates an important aspect of the choices healthcare providers will make as they evaluate the costs and benefits of private networks. Some will probably choose to build their own private networks using commercially available CBRS spectrum instead of relying on a nationwide carrier. But the Ellison Institute wanted the high speeds and low latencies offered by mmWave, and it also wanted to use different spectrum bands for different use cases. This would not be possible with a CBRS network.