5G in VA, SimLEARN and Beyond
By: Brian Kenneth Stevenson, Acting Associate Director, Emerging Healthcare Technology Integration, SimLEARN
5G is the next generation technology that represents a paradigm shift to earlier generations. 5G, with deployment starting in 2019, is expected to provide exponentially faster speeds, decreased latency, and more efficient networks. It will go beyond existing capabilities to enable access to a broad range of services and support innovation.
Recognizing 5G’s emergence and potential, the VA unveiled its plan to provide Veterans with ultra-modernized medical care via 5G wireless technology during VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s “State of the VA” speech in February 2020.
At the time, the initial phase of the VA’s first 5G-enabled hospital in Palo Alto, CA, was operational. The effort, Project Convergence, was a milestone over a year in the making, involving Verizon, Microsoft, and Medivis. Pivoting amidst COVID-19, the VA announced its next deployments to include Orlando and Miami, FL, and Puget Sound, WA, in November 2020. Carriers for the 5G services are Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, respectively.
Piloting healthcare use cases to assess 5G can include:
· Mobile-to-mobile connectivity across/between medical devices to track people and assets within the facility
· Remote and/or near real-time presurgical planning and virtual engagement/collaboration via augmented reality (AR)
· Training and pain management in AR and virtual reality (VR)
5G is a term for “5th generation,” meaning the 5th generation mobile network that is expected to change and expand its infrastructure’s capabilities across the world beyond current wireless access technologies and that of previous generations.
This new global wireless standard is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, such as machines, objects, and devices. It is meant to deliver higher peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to consumers.
Wireless technology uses a “spectrum” or invisible radio frequencies that wireless signals travel over. Acting as the lifeblood of the wireless industry, the spectrum has airwaves that hosts every user’s activities, from making phone calls to checking social media.
Because spectrum is a scarce resource, the mix of low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum will play a critical role in determining how carriers will deliver 5G services desired by their customers.
The VA announced Palo Alto as its first 5G-boosted hospital in February 2020, resulting from the public-private partnership involving three companies: Verizon, Microsoft and Medivis. Deemed “Project Convergence,” Verizon provides a 5G network backbone, and Microsoft offers its HoloLens information delivery platform and headset that is used with Medivis’ imaging software which enables practitioners to transform complex health information into interactive 3D holograms, models, and overlays.
The Miami VA Health Care System has been equipped with T-Mobile’s deployed Ultra Capacity 5G. The new installation of in-building 5G radios providing coverage can deliver speeds of 300 Mbps with peaks up to 1 Gbps to medical staff and patients with 5G-capable devices. These rates enable instant wireless access to large amounts of patient data, such as imaging results, without being tethered to a computer.
The entire Puget Sound VA Health Care system is set up with AT&T’s 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) capabilities. The Distributed Antenna System (DAS) installation goes beyond a single room care environment to encompass a medical care and training campus. This first of its kind, indoor 5G system serves VA staff and Veteran patients on the AT&T Mobility Network.
The VA’s SimLEARN National Simulation Center, which is built on the new Orlando VA Medical Center and part of the new Lake Nona Medical City campus, will follow in Palo Alto’s footsteps, and be outfitted with Verizon’s 5G mm wave, high-band technology. SimLEARN and Verizon signed an agreement on June 15 to pull fiber into the building. Serving as the operational hub for coordination of all national clinical simulation activities, the idea is to have SimLEARN optimize the incorporation of emerging 5G-enabled health technology into clinical practice.
5G Services Markets: eMBB, MMTC, URLLC, and FWA – Global Forecast to 2026. (2021, March 30). Research and Markets. July, 2021, from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210330005610/en/5G-Services-Markets-eMBB-MMTC-URLLC-and-FWA---Global-Forecast-to-2026---ResearchAndMarkets.com
Nokia. 5G Spectrum Bands Explained – Low, mid, and high band. (2021). Retrieved May 13, 2021, from https://www.nokia.com/networks/insights/spectrum-bands-5g-world/
AT&T. (2021, February 2). AT&T and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will Pilot Healthcare Innovations with AT&T 5G and Multi-Access Edge Computing. https://about.att.com/story/2021/att_va_5g_healthcare_innovations.html
Qualcomm. (2021, May 13). Everything you need to know about 5G. Retrieved on May 13, 2021, from https://www.qualcomm.com/5g/what-is-5g
Fogg, I. (2021, March 8). Latency is the new 5G speed battleground which will enable XR and AR. Open Signal.
Siriwardhana, Y., Gurkan, G., Ylianttila, M., & Liyanage, M. (2021). The role of 5G for digital healthcare against COVID-19 pandemic: Opportunities and challenges, ICT Express, 7(2), 244-252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icte.2020.10.002
T-Mobile. (2021, February 25). T-Mobile Brings Ultra Capacity 5G to Miami U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, from https://www.t-mobile.com/news/network/t-mobile-brings-ultra-capacity-5g-to-miami-u-s-department-of-veterans-affairs-va-hospital