VA pushing ahead with 5G hospital: 4 project updates

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift priorities for the deployment of its first 5G-enabled clinical care system at the VA Palo Alto (Calif.) Health Care System.

In February, VA announced a public-private partnership dubbed Project Convergence with Verizon, Microsoft and Medvis. Through the collaboration, Verizon provides a 5G network connection, Microsoft offers its HoloLens information delivery platform and headset used with imaging software from Medvis, which allows officials to view health information in interactive 3D holograms, models and overlays, according to an Aug. 11 NextGov report.

Thomas Osborne, MD, director of VA’s National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation, outlined the project’s advancements over the past few months and shared its goals for the year ahead with the publication.

Four project updates:

1. Once the pandemic hit, VA personnel had to reprioritize efforts based on who was allowed to enter the Palo Alto hospital, which caused an initial distraction from focus on the 5G effort, according to Dr. Osborne.

2. Many individuals who would work on logistics, engineering, planning and other project elements “refocused on how we can shore up our internal infrastructures to prepare ourselves to support the potential surge, and/or other things that we need to do to best care for our patients,” he said.

3. In February, Verizon delivered a standalone, zero-trust network system that offers advanced wireless capabilities in a defined area in the hospital; the team hoped to integrate the 5G-enabled innovation into surgical care across the hospital’s campus by the end of the year.

“We’ve had multiple meetings and we’ve had a couple of visits about planning that out, and marking the areas where the cable is going to be and how it would intersect, and integrate and plug in,” Dr. Osborne said. “So I’d say if you were to ask where we are on the roadmap of having the 5G light up the entire healthcare system, we’re probably about a third of the way there.”

4. In terms of network use cases, the team plans to culminate with bedside and/or operating room surgical guidance to support safer and effective procedures. Overall, Dr. Osborne anticipates the project will be completed in the next five years.

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