Wilkie: VA will soon have the world’s first 5G-enabled hospital

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The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Palo Alto Health Care System is on the verge of becoming the world’s first 5G-enabled hospital.

“President Trump last year challenged America to be the first 5G wireless service, and VA met that challenge,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. “As I speak, our hospital in Palo Alto is about to become the first 5G-enabled health facility in the world.”

According to Wilkie, 5G technology—the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications—will be operational this week at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

“What 5G will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy,” added Wilkie. “The resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give us reliable means of delivering tele-surgery services to veterans across the nation. That means we will have the capacity to allow VA's best physicians to consult during surgery even if they are not in the same room and are halfway across the country.”

In addition, the VA secretary said the 5G technology will be a medical “breakthrough” for surgeons in the operating room.

“Imagine a doctor being able to see layers beneath the skin before the first incision is ever made,” exclaimed Wilkie. “The FDA was never able to approve these sorts of practices in surgery because 4G technology simply could not carry that much information. But we are on the cutting edge and moving forward in ways that just a few years ago were unimaginable.”

In January 2019, Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center announced that it intended to be the first U.S. hospital to use standards-based 5G.

At the time, Rush said it planned to leverage AT&T’s 5G network, Multi-Access Edge Computing—a cloud-based IT service—to enable the healthcare organization to manage its cellular traffic over both its local network and its wide area network.

Officials from Rush were not immediately available for comment on the status of their 5G implementation.

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