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FCC proposes reserving spectrum band for medical devices

Posting in Healthcare

The wireless spectrum battle has escalated between corporations - but the FCC has now proposed reserving a band exclusively for medical use.

The wireless spectrum battle has escalated between corporations - but the FCC has now proposed reserving a band exclusively for medical use in an attempt to better protect the future of digital connectivity and health.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated that it wishes to reserve the 2.36-2.40 gHz band exclusively for devices on the Medical Body Area Network (MBAN).

FCC Chairman Genachowski was joined by GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. last week to discuss the potential ruling, which would make the United States the first country to allocate spectrum resources purely for MBAN devices.

MBAN technology consists of small, low-power sensors on the body that capture clinical information,
such as temperature and respiratory function -- which would otherwise keep patients in bed. This information can be relayed through wireless technology so healthcare professionals can monitor a patient's condition.

Examples of MBAN devices include LifeLine home care pendants, that monitor the elderly and fetal telemetry -- lightweight devices often used for premature children that monitor a baby's health.

The FCC hopes that by doing so, the move will spur innovation and development of new wireless health technologies. MBAN devices that are in current operation work on a number of frequencies, but by setting a band in stone, it may reassure those who are in the field of advancing the Medical Body Area Network that they will have access to wireless spectrum in the future -- and so continuing its expansion is viable.

According to the FCC, almost 17 million people are accessing health data on their mobile phones in the United States, a 125 percent increase since 2010. When we consider approximately half of patients in U.S. hospitals are not monitored outside of its grounds, promoting a cost-effective solution that could improve the health of patients may also lead to savings due to emergency visits -- potentially preventable by strong monitoring systems.

The mobile health industry (mHealth) is expected to be a $2 to 6 billion industry by 2015, and surveys have suggested that over 80 percent of doctors advocate the real-time monitoring of health MBAN devices allow -- which lets health professionals intervene before conditions reach urgency.


Image credit: Adrian Clark

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure