A new pilot scheme will allow patients to perform capsule endoscopies from home, with the camera feed linked to their doctor via 5G
An endoscopy is a well-known medical procedure characterised by feeding a small camera attached to a tube into the patient’s bowels, allowing the physician to perform a visual appraisal of various internal organs.
Given the hands-on nature of the procedure, endoscopies are routinely performed at hospitals and other medical facilities with the physician in the room with the patient.
In the past couple of decades, however, less invasive procedures have been developed, including capsule endoscopy, whereby a tiny camera situated within a protective capsule is swallowed by the patient, removing the need for extensive tubing. Nonetheless, these capsule endoscopies typically take place in a hospital environment.
Now, however, a new pilot programme being launched by West Midlands 5G (WM5G) will see this pill-sized camera connected to a 5G network, allowing patients to undertake the procedure at home, monitored remotely by a physician.
Working with NHS Arden and GEM CSU, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, and CorporateHealth International, WM5G’s pilot programme will help develop the colon capsule endoscopy (CCE) Smartbox, a device that will capture and transmit the images of the bowel to the doctor.
As part of the trial, the 5G connectivity will also enable a ‘virtual assistant’ that can provide answers to the patient’s questions in real time.
The potential scope of this form of telemedicine cannot be underestimated. In April 2021, 187,000 patients were on the waiting list for an endoscopy procedure in the UK. With the NHS increasingly overstretched, both by government cutbacks and the coronavirus pandemic, allowing patients to self-administer this diagnostic test could be the difference between life and death.
“Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK with around 20,000 deaths each year. We also know that if detected early, the prognosis is good,” explained Ramesh Arasaradnam OBE, Senior gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.
“Each year, over 2 million endoscopies are scheduled to take place through the NHS, but the level of demand combined with limited clinical capacity has resulted in a backlog. This has been exacerbated by COVID-19 as endoscopy rooms require additional cleaning between procedures, limiting the number of appointments that can be handled in a day.
“Through the application of 5G technology, it is feasible that patients can swallow the capsule and undertake the whole process in the comfort of their own homes. As we strive to build the evidence base, we believe that many of these procedures could potentially be undertaken each year easing the burden on the NHS and reducing stress and uncertainty for patients.”
Of course, the impact of 5G on this procedure and others like it does not end here. As 5G technology matures and becomes more widely available, it is hoped that AI technologies will be developed to help clinicians analyse the images and video footage recorded, allowing for faster and more accurate diagnoses.
In related news, Total Telecom would like to extend huge congratulations to West Midlands 5G, who took home the prestigious Smart City Initiative Award earlier this week at the Connected Britain Awards 2021!
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