VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System has become the first fully 5G-enabled hospital in VA, and among the first in the world.
Health Care System Director and Army Veteran Thomas J. Fitzgerald III said, “With VA Palo Alto Health Care System being the first VA hospital, and also one of the first hospitals in America to have 5G, we feel we are right for this. This is the right time and it’s at the right place because we are in Silicon Valley.
“We are ensuring VA stays relevant with cutting-edge technology for the health and well-being of our Veterans,” he said, adding, “This is perhaps the most exciting and dramatic time in medical history.”
Dr. Thomas Osborne, director of the VA National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation located in the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System, is leading the project. He described what this means for Veterans and their care.
“We are faced with a titanic confluence of growing health care challenges. At the same time, we are developing amazing technology that can dramatically advance care,” Osborne said. “Many of these advancements are creating a wealth of valuable data, which is an untapped resource because traditional infrastructure is not equipped to move and analyze that data efficiently.
“The next generation of digital networks will provide the backbone to help us unlock the potential to dramatically advance health care.”
From a Dirt Road to a Superhighway
5G is the fifth generation of wireless cellular communication and offers an extraordinary infrastructure for medical advancements. Importantly, 5G allows us to move large complex data files much faster than ever before. The improved capability is like leaving a slow dirt road and getting onto an efficient superhighway.
This opens the door to opportunities that we could only imagine before. With the addition of augmented reality tools, we have been able to turn large CT and MRI images into three-dimensional models that you can virtually hold, turn and evaluate in ways that is reminiscent of a futuristic science fiction movie. This capability can promote unparalleled understanding of complex anatomy and disease for clinicians, students and patients.
With this technology, presurgical planning can be more intuitive and realistic. One can project a patient’s own X-ray, CT or MRI onto their body and a clinician using the system can actually see where a problem is before making an opening in the skin. As a result, there is a potential for more efficient surgeries with less complications and smaller incisions.
This infrastructure provides many other opportunities, such as improved diagnosis, autonomous vehicles and democratizing care to underserved areas. We know that faster, more accurate diagnosis leads to better outcomes; therefore, it is exciting that 5G gives us the ability to transmit large data files to cutting-edge computers that can provide advanced personalized diagnosis on demand.
Advances Have Far Reaching Impact for Veterans
Veteran-centric innovation is very much at the core of our VA mission. We have an opportunity to lead the discovery and testing of solutions to improve the health care of our Veterans. These advances have the potential to have a far-reaching positive impact that extends far beyond our borders. VA partnered with Verizon, Medivis and Microsoft to deliver the 5G-enabled clinical care system at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System.