Verizon will supply VA with mobile devices, emergency tech in $448M deal

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded its existing partnership with Verizon in a $448.3 million, nine-year extension to supply VA medical centers and healthcare facilities with mobile devices including communications during the VA’s disaster recovery missions and other emergencies.

The partnership will allow for the wider adoption of mobile edge computing and software-defined wide-area network technology to improve the VA’s broader network capabilities and ability to serve veterans. VA emergency response personnel will gain access to Verizon Frontline, a network of technology designed specifically for disaster response.

“Verizon has a long-standing partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including connecting the first fully 5G-connected hospital at the VA facility in Palo Alto and the VA Video Connect telehealth service, which provides over 80,000 veterans with free, unlimited access to health care consultations,” Maggie Hallbach, senior vice president of public sector at Verizon, said in a press release.

The newly inked deal is included in the second iteration of Enterprise Mobile Devices and Services and will encompass voice, text and data services along with tools, materials, labor, management support and equipment to perform all contract requirements.

Per the agreement, the VA will be able to purchase devices and services for community-based outpatient clinics, field and program offices and remote users in the U.S.

In February 2020, the VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System became the first 5G-enabled hospital in the system, making it among the first in the world, according to the carrier. The technology allowed for improved diagnostics, autonomous vehicles and the transmission of large data files to allow for personalized diagnosis.

“This is perhaps the most exciting and dramatic time in medical history,” Thomas Osborne, M.D., director of the Veterans Health Administration’s National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation (NCCHI) and chief medical informatics officer, told VA news after the launch of the Palo Alto Health Care System’s 5G capabilities. “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. Many of these advancements are creating a wealth of valuable data, which is an untapped resource because the traditional infrastructure is not equipped to move and analyze that valuable information efficiently.”

Late last year, Verizon and the Veterans Health Administration began developing 5G mobile edge computing and drone technology to be used in concordance with NCCHI and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

The tests involved sensor-enabled drones and FAA-compliant pilot training to evaluate how drone technology can improve search and rescue performance.

“This collaborative work is designed to enhance the safety of our patients and staff in the event of emergencies by leveraging cutting-edge technologies for improved situational awareness, strategic coordination and response times,” Osborne said in a press release regarding the new partnership. “On a more routine basis, the advanced sensors, combined with the agility of the aerial perspective, can also expand our ability to proactively monitor vital hospital infrastructure.”

In the new expanded partnership, VA emergency response personnel will gain access to nearly 600 deployable communication assets developed by Verizon. Such assets include Verizon’s Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response (THOR) vehicle.