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FCC Dedicates Spectrum for Wireless Monitoring Devices

May 24, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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Following up a request from Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially adopted rules that will enable spectrum for Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs). These low-power wideband networks consist of multiple body-worn sensors that transmit a variety of patient data to a control device. MBAN devices aim to free patients from cumbersome cables that tether them to their hospital bed.

Last week, Genachowski, alongside industry vendors GE Healthcare (Chalfont, St. Giles, U.K.) and Philips Healthcare (Andover, Mass.), unveiled a proposal that would allow for greater use of MBAN devices. According to the FCC, MBANs provide a cost effective way to monitor every patient in a healthcare institution, so clinicians can provide real-time and accurate data, allowing them to intervene and save lives. 

These devices on the MBAN spectrum will aim to actively monitor a patient’s health, such as blood glucose and pressure monitoring, delivery of electrocardiogram readings, and even neonatal monitoring systems. They could be deployed widely within a hospital setting and will make use of inexpensive disposable body-worn sensors. The FCC says MBAN technology will also make it easier to move patients to different parts of the healthcare facility for treatment and can dramatically improve the quality of patient care by giving health care providers the chance to identify life-threatening problems or events before they reach critical levels. 

In the First Report and Order, the FCC is allocating 40 MHz of spectrum at 2360-2400 MHz for MBAN use on a secondary basis.  It will accommodate MBAN use through an expansion of the existing Medical Device Radiocommunication (MedRadio) Service.  This, the FCC says, will permit MBAN devices to operate on a ‘license-by-rule’ basis in which users will not have to apply for and receive individual station licenses. The FCC says it will lead to the rapid and widespread development of innovative new MBAN applications.

All MBAN use of the 2360-2390 MHz band will be subject to registration with an MBAN coordinator and additional coordination if warranted by location. Additionally, use of this 30 megahertz band will be restricted to indoor operation at healthcare facilities. Use of MBAN devices that operate in the 2390-2400 MHz band will not require registration and coordination, the FCC says.

The FCC sites a study by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which says a monitored hospital patient has a 48 percent chance of surviving a cardiac arrest—this number plummets as low as 6 percent without monitoring.  

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