FCC to authorize wireless medical monitors
Agency will allocate spectrum for wireless monitoring systems
The Federal Communications Commission says it plans to allocate spectrum bandwidth for use of body sensors that would monitor a patient's vital signs wirelessly.
The spectrum will work specifically with MBAN (medical body area network) sensor devices. Similar in size and shape to a Band-Aid, the sensors would be disposable and include a low-power radio transmitter, according to an FCC official.
The primary function is to monitor a patient's temperature, pulse, blood glucose level, blood pressure and respiratory health wirelessly.
"The benefits are clear: increased mobility, better care and lower costs," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski tells CNN.
Here's how it works: Using the newly allocated spectrum bandwidth, the sensors on a patient's body would wirelessly form a network, aggregate the results and transmit that data to centralized computer systems.
The idea is to provide real-time results for health care staff and more comfort for patients because they won't be attached to machines by wires.
FCC officials say the amount of radiation involved with these devices is so low that they would pose no health risks. They say MBAN devices would use short-length radio waves at a frequency lower than a Bluetooth.
MBAN manufactures believe it will drive down health care costs. They estimate that disposable wireless sensors could save about $2,000 to $12,000 a patient.
The FCC says this is just the beginning of innovation and more efficient medical care in the United States. They see use of MBAN devices eventually branching outside of hospitals and being used to monitor vital signs of patients in the comfort of their own home.
However, FCC approval is just the first step needed before consumers see the wireless devices in hospitals. Next, manufactures such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare will fine-tune their MBAN prototypes and begin the FDA approval process.
The new FCC rules, expected to pass at an agency vote next Thursday, will make the United States the first country in the world to allocate spectrum for MBAN devices.
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