For the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the future of medicine depends upon connectivity, which is why it’s expanding 5G coverage into more health systems across the U.S. 

California-based VA Palo Alto Health Care System became the VA’s first 5G hospital with the installation of a portable 5G network solution within its education building. Now, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, is working toward an industry-first deployment of 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) capabilities across its health care and training facility in Seattle. 

Health systems like the VA are beginning to turn to 5G infrastructure to support mobile-to-mobile connectivity between medical devices, and greater use of augmented reality and virtual reality tools to support medical training, among other use cases. These advanced tools require greater data transfer rates to support the large amounts of information transmitted across devices. 

While 5G provides greater bandwidth to allow for the rapid flow of more data across more devices, MEC reduces latency (the time it takes for information to move across a network) and improves signal reliability by keeping certain data within the local network, bringing computing capabilities closer to the user. 

For a health system that houses the VA’s fifth largest research-and-development program, this support is particularly critical. Puget Sound Health Care is working toward its connectivity goal with the support of a public-private partnership with AT&T. To date, the health care system has completed installation of a distributed antenna system (DAS) as well as other components needed to enable 5G. A DAS is a network of connected antennas that amplify signals, in this case, across the Sub6 GHz spectrum. 

This coverage will extend to the system’s mental health and research building, which opened in early 2019. The VA Puget Sound Health Care System aims to fully deploy its MEC and 5G millimeter wave spectrum and related technologies before the end of 2021.