The Veterans Affairs Department plans to test how 5G internet connectivity can improve care delivery and hospital processes through a pilot at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
The VA is working with telecommunications company AT&T on the project through a public-private partnership, AT&T announced Tuesday. AT&T has already installed 5G infrastructure indoors throughout the Seattle VA Medical Center and plans to deploy 5G millimeter wave spectrum and technologies that use 5G this year.
The VA and AT&T did not disclose financial details of the partnership in the announcement.
AT&T bid on the contract under which they installed 5G infrastructure at VA Puget Sound, according to a VA spokesperson. The 5G installation and public-private partnership builds on an existing agreement VA has with AT&T, according to Garrick Yahnke, area vice president-civilian in AT&T's public sector arm.
5G, the newest generation of wireless internet, offers significantly quicker speed, lower latency and higher bandwidth than 4G, the network in use by many mobile devices today. Most people aren't yet using 5G, since it requires telecommunications companies to set up infrastructure in a user's area and for users to have compatible devices.
The VA could test whether 5G improves tracking of people and assets, as well as whether augmented and virtual reality paired with 5G improve pain management, medical training and surgical assistance, according to AT&T.
The pilot at Seattle VA Medical Center will be one of the first projects to test 5G across a campus, according to Daniel Mesimer, director of WAN/LAN infrastructure engineering and provisioning in the VA's Office of Information and Technology.
"It sets the groundwork for future capabilities of mobility networks for VA users and applications," Mesimer said in a statement.
It's not the VA's first foray into 5G. The VA in February 2020 partnered with Verizon, Microsoft Corp. and startup Medivis to deploy 5G capabilities and test AR for surgical planning at VA Palo Alto (Calif.) Health Care System.
Healthcare, along with the information services and manufacturing, is expected to be a top industry to benefit from 5G expansion, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group commissioned by wireless communications industry trade group CTIA and released Tuesday.
5G will spur creation of 341,000 new healthcare jobs by 2030, according to the report, and the healthcare industry will contribute an estimated $104 billion to the U.S.'s gross domestic product as a result of 5G. Across industries, 5G is expected to create up to 4.6 million jobs and contribute up to $1.7 trillion to GPD in the U.S.