VA and 5G technology coordination create faster, smarter health care for Veterans

VA’s SimLEARN is using 5G high band in a controlled, low-risk simulation environment so that it can be successfully and correctly dispersed throughout the VHA system to help Veterans.

The Simulation Learning, Evaluation, Assessment, and Research Network’s (SimLEARN) National Simulation Center (NSC) is one of the first facilities in VHA to operationalize 5G high band millimeter wave (high band).

With this new technology, VA is truly leading the way in groundbreaking health care for Veterans. 5G allows for faster speeds, more network capacity, decreased lag time and the possibility of more hyper-interconnected environments.

Installing high band into existing VA infrastructures allows medical providers to share large files of Veterans’ medical information more quickly, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) through augmented or virtual channels.

Unlike 5G low band and mid band, high band features even faster speeds that support large bundles of information. It can also dedicate bandwidth to specific instruments or medical devices.

Telehealth supported by 5G

Additionally, 5G helps to support telehealth, which has seen substantial growth during the coronavirus pandemic. All varieties of the technology allow Veterans reliable access to their VA care teams through quality, real-time video connections.

Currently, VHA has four facilities where 5G varieties are installed and operational:

  • Palo Alto, California National Centers for Innovation to Impact
  • Puget Sound, Washington NCI2I
  • SimLEARN NSC Orlando, Florida
  • Miami Health Care System, Miami, Florida.

Developing through collaboration

This effort represents VA’s ability to collaborate to impact Veteran lives, both within VA itself and with outside organizations. Collaborating closely with Verizon means 5G high band was adapted quickly and SimLEARN has the tools and understanding to better replicate the new technology with any carrier across VHA.

The integration of 5G high band at SimLEARN was led and completed by its Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Saura. SimLEARN also worked alongside efforts at VA’s Innovation Ecosystem’s NCI2I to establish 5G high band at their site. This creates opportunities for cross-collaboration between the two sites within VA to evolve and enhance Veterans’ health care experience.

SimLEARN worked in support of National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation Director Dr. Thomas Osbourne’s work with 5G-enabled surgical augmented reality at NCI2I. Through this collaboration, SimLEARN’s Emerging Health Care Technology Integration (EHTI) program supported the integration of 5G-enabled surgical AR with VA’s Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS).

PACS ensures that Veteran 3D imaging can support pre-surgical, pre-procedural and interventional radiology. The 5G integration with PACS helps doctors provide enhanced surgery techniques and enrich Veteran care.

Additionally, collaboration on 5G integration through the VA Innovation Unit (VAIU), which brings together SimLEARN and other IT stakeholders within VA to help ensure that VA technology keeps pace with its innovation. VAIU is assisting locations with appropriate planning for 5G installation and integration.

VAIU brings technological innovation from discovery to implementation and scale. It also endorses a collaborative effort to promote process and budget standards for fast-tracking technology based projects and products throughout the VA system.

Looking to the future of the future

SimLEARN’s 2022 5G outlook consists of two efforts: expanding the usage of 5G high band and Citizen Band Radio Service (CBRS). 5G high band focuses on low latency-dependent emerging health care technologies that provide patient care and use low-energy levels for short-range devices that require a lot of bandwidth.

CBRS focuses on creating a better personalized Veteran experience by providing an opportunity to build relationships with private 5G startups and opportunities in 5G/Wi-Fi cloud-based networks.

SimLEARN’s EHTI program will perform site visits to VHA’s 5G centers by spring 2022 in support of VAIU’s 5G Committee. The goal of the site visits is to better understand the individual 5G architectures, uses and opportunities for cross-collaboration to improve Veteran health and wellness.

VA and 5G technology coordination create faster, smarter health care for Veterans