New FCC Rules Enable Wireless Networks for Patient Monitoring

June 1, 2012
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has advanced medical innovation by dedicating a section of spectrum that will transform medical care. An FCC ruling on May 24, enables wireless Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs); low-power wideband networks consisting of sensors worn by the patient that transmit information on vital signs to a control device.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has advanced medical innovation by dedicating a section of spectrum that will transform medical care. An FCC ruling on May 24, enables wireless Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs); low-power wideband networks consisting of sensors worn by the patient that transmit information on vital signs to a control device. By eliminating cables that keep patients connected to monitors, MBAN devices will reduce discomfort and risk of infection as well as ease and improve the quality of patient care, freeing them to be moved to different parts of a health care facility for treatment.

Limitations of cumbersome cables keep nearly half of all patients from being actively monitored. One study showed that a monitored hospital patient has a 48% chance of surviving a cardiac arrest but this number significantly drops to as low as 6% without monitoring. MBANs will allow for reliable and consistent monitoring, giving health care providers the chance to nip any serious problems in the bud before they reach critical levels. The wireless MBAN devices will use inexpensive disposable body-worn sensors to actively, cost-effectively monitor a patient’s health including blood glucose and pressure monitoring, delivery of electrocardiogram readings, and even neonatal monitoring systems.

The new FCC rules make the U.S. the first in the world to allocate spectrum for MBANs. 40 MHz at 2360-2400 MHz will be designated for this use. Healthcare experts predict that this advancement could spur further innovation in patient monitoring.