FCC Designates Health IT Bandwidth

FCC designating bandwidth to transmit data from remote sensors attached to patients to control devices.

Hospital patients soon will be more comfortable, and perhaps have a better chance of recovery, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission decision to allocate bandwidth to low-power wideband networks that wirelessly monitor patients.

The FCC decided on Thursday to designate bandwidth for Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN), which are still being developed. The networks will transmit data from remote sensors attached to patients to control devices, according to a news release from the FCC. MBANs will “free patients from cumbersome cables that tether them to their hospital bed” and “provide a cost-effective way to monitor every patient in a health-care institution,” the FCC says.

The order allows indoor operation of MBAN devices at health-care facilities in the 2360-2390 MHz band on a ‘license-by-rule’ basis that will require registration, but not individual station licenses. Additional bandwidth will be available between 2390-2400 MHz for other locations, including in-home networks, with no registration required.

“Wireless devices that operate on MBAN spectrum can be used to actively monitor a patient’s health, including blood glucose and pressure monitoring, delivery of electrocardiogram readings, and even neonatal monitoring systems,” according to the news release. “MBAN devices will be designed to be deployed widely within a hospital setting and will make use of inexpensive disposable body-worn sensors.”

The commission says the limitations of cables that physically tether patients to monitoring devices “keep nearly half of all patients from being actively monitored.” When fully monitored, a hospital patient’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest is 48 percent, compared to as low as 6 percent without monitoring, the FCC says, citing data from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.