Walmart, Verizon in talks to offer 5G at health centers

The expanded bandwidth would be a big boost to smartphone-based healthcare consultations, enabling doctors to remotely monitor a patient’s vitals and analyze the statistics in real time.
By Nathan Eddy
02:21 PM

With 5G communications technology seen as a competitive advantage in the healthcare market, Walmart and telecommunications giant Verizon Communications are in talks to outfit the retailer’s new health clinics with 5G-network-compatible rooftop antennas.

WHY IT MATTERS
The development, reported in The Wall Street Journal, would first be tested in two locations, according to unnamed sources quoted in the article.

The expanded bandwidth that 5G offers would also be a big help in boosting the security of smartphone-based healthcare consultations or other health services, or also allow doctors to remotely monitor a patient’s vitals and analyze the statistics in real time.

In order to provide such services for its health clinics, which Walmart is hoping to bring to more locations across the country, the company would have to commit to a massive build-out of infrastructure – and of course, consumers would need to have their own 5G-compatible handsets.

THE LARGER TREND
In January, the retailer opened its second ever Walmart Health center in Calhoun, Georgia, which offers primary and urgent care, labs, X-ray and diagnostics, and counseling, dental, optical and hearing services.

The first Walmart health center launched in September 2019 in Dallas, Georgia, offering primary care, health insurance education and enrollment, all in one facility with a separate entrance.

Telcos like Verizon argue that in order for hospitals and health systems to prepare for 5G, they need to intelligently re-architect their current network infrastructure now to support the applications and use cases that will leverage 5G in the future.

While 5G holds much promise for healthcare organizations to support innovative clinical use cases and use of technologies, as well as to help deliver critical data where it’s needed, healthcare organizations need to address several areas as they build their 5G roadmap in order to unlock the power of the technology.

The Department of Veterans Affairs  started rolling out the capabilities of a 5G-enabled hospital in California in February, with advanced cellular-networking performance to enable the delivery of telesurgery services to veterans, thus allowing physicians to consult during surgery even across the country.

The VA is among the first to embrace the potentially transformative value of 5G. Back in January 2019, Rush University Medical Center announced plans to become the first hospital in the US with 5G network services provided by AT&T.

At HIMSS20, Clint Cetti, AT&T's global director of strategy and innovation will describe the advantages of 5G cellular and edge computing, and describe some of the best healthcare use cases for the next-gen communication specs.

These include in-building data management, easier handling of large imaging files, remote patient monitoring and virtual care, and leading-edge tech such as telerobotics and augmented reality.

ON THE RECORD
"Healthcare looks like a big opportunity," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said during an investor meeting in February, noting the company could provide services for consumers where traditional care facilities were out of reach.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.