Veterans’ Health Administration Harnessing the Power of 5G for Advanced Care


The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the nation’s largest healthcare system catering to 9 million veterans annually, is making strides in delivering high-quality care through innovative technology. With over 1,300 facilities, the VHA faces challenges in maintaining consistent healthcare standards, but a ground-breaking solution is on the horizon—private 5G networking.

Revolutionizing Communications in Healthcare

Traditional communication systems have long plagued hospitals. The inability of radio waves from cell phone services to penetrate the concrete and steel walls of medical buildings has led to unreliable connections. While WiFi became a common workaround, it was designed for data transmission, leaving voice calls susceptible to interruptions as healthcare professionals moved within hospital premises.

Private 5G networks emerge as a game-changer, operating within the building and ensuring seamless, high-quality reception. By sidestepping the public internet, these networks also bolster cybersecurity and safeguard patient privacy.

Unleashing the Power of Augmented Reality in Surgery

A pioneering pilot program at a VA hospital in Livermore, CA showcases the transformative potential of private 5G networks. In collaboration with Verizon, Microsoft, and Medivis, the hospital has established the first private 5G network among VA facilities. This network powers augmented reality (AR) applications for surgeons, offering an unprecedented level of precision.

The ultra-fast, secure network, with nearly zero latency, enables surgeons to access advanced imaging tools for pre-surgical planning. During surgery, 3D scans can be superimposed on patients’ bodies, enhancing precision and accuracy. Moreover, the network facilitates immersive AR training for surgical residents, eliminating the need for costly and logistically challenging mannequins or live actors.

Optimizing Resource Management and Efficiency

The VHA, like many healthcare systems, faces a critical nursing shortage. Private 5G networks present a solution by streamlining resource management. Nurses spend valuable time searching for supplies and equipment, affecting patient care and costing hospitals billions annually.

With a private 5G network, nurses can efficiently locate items using mobile devices, receiving directions for the fastest routes. Intelligent video monitoring also enables timely alerts when patients at risk of falling attempt to leave their beds, reducing the likelihood of injuries. This not only addresses immediate concerns but also contributes to long-term efficiency goals.

Enabling Seamless Cloud Connectivity and Enhanced Security

Private 5G networks empower hospitals to establish secure, high-performance connections to cloud services. This facilitates secure data transmission and sharing among facilities, significantly reducing the risk of cyber threats. The enhanced security measures make it significantly harder for hackers to compromise sensitive information.

Extending Healthcare Reach through Telehealth

Many veterans, especially those with disabilities or residing in remote areas, receive home care through telehealth. Private 5G networks further democratize access to reliable connectivity. Deploying easy-to-install, wireless base stations ensures that even veterans in far-flung regions can access telehealth services, bridging geographical gaps in healthcare provision.

Unlocking Future Possibilities

The potential applications of medical 5G networks are vast, and the VHA’s initiatives are just the beginning. Agencies exploring such advancements may find support through proposals eligible for funding from the Technology Modernization Fund.

In conclusion, the Veterans Health Administration’s adoption of private 5G networks marks a significant leap forward in healthcare technology. From revolutionizing communication within hospitals to enabling augmented reality in surgery and improving resource management, the benefits are manifold. As the VHA paves the way, the future of healthcare is undoubtedly intertwined with the limitless possibilities of 5G technology.

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