China will take a prudent scientific approach as it rolls out 5G networks in the healthcare sector, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.
Superfast 5G wireless technology is expected to be a driving force in the development of telemedicine and in balancing the distribution of medical resources, said Jiao Yahui, deputy chief of medical administration and supervision for the commission.
Medical personnel who have used 5G technology for remote diagnosis or surgery have given positive feedback on the high quality of images, data and audio transmitted through the network.
"However, it's still a new technology. It's in its infancy," she said. "The national backbone network is immature at this stage, and cross-regional transmissions have some instability."
She added there is some risk associated with performing remote surgery using the 5G network.
The Da Vinci System, an early robotic surgical system developed overseas to facilitate long-distance surgeries, has not lived up to expectations, Jiao said.
She said medical institutions should exercise the principle of prudent tolerance, and not rush 5G applications into the healthcare sector.
An increasing number of medical institutions across China are collaborating with telecom companies to seek breakthroughs in telemedicine. Beijing Tiantan Hospital, a designated emergency care provider for the upcoming Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition, has begun setting up facilities based on 5G to provide possible long-distance emergency aid during the expo, according to Wang Yongjun, the hospital's deputy head.
"I want to stress that our work is in the trial stage. We will accumulate more experience and test its stability," he said.
In recent years, China has been pushing for wider applications of intelligent tools to upgrade its healthcare services.
Jiao said the country is committed to building intelligent hospitals this year to enhance data and information sharing between medical workers, provide easier access to services for patients and improve internal management at healthcare institutions.
The commission has also formed a five-tier evaluation system to offer guidance, she said.
"Advancements in information technology demand a huge investment," she said. "The launch of the 5G framework is aimed at maximizing outcomes with limited resources."
In response to rising concerns about data security, Jiao called for stronger legislation to clarify the ownership of medical information.
She added that existing laws and regulations, such as the Cybersecurity Law and Regulation for Safety Protection of Computer Information Systems, have provided a safety net for personal information.