The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to allocate wireless spectrum for medical body area networks, a new type of wireless medical device that would reduce the number of wires tethering a patient to a hospital bed and increase the role of patient monitoring at home.
During a news conference last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had said the agency would be likely to approve the allocation of the spectrum for medical body area networks, or MBANs.
MBANs are wireless sensors that are placed on a patient's body and capture clinical information, which is wirelessly transmitted to a nearby “hub” device and then forwarded on to a patient monitoring system.
Allocating protected spectrum for these types of devices is expected to limit interference from other sources, such as a Wi-Fi network, and allow hospitals and other healthcare providers to increase the number of patients who are monitored in a hospital, ease patient transport, better control infection and encourage patient mobility.
GE Healthcare, which is developing MBAN technology, first petitioned the FCC to allocate spectrum for MBANs in 2007.
Philips Healthcare, Texas Instruments and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering later joined GE Healthcare's effort to have the FCC set aside spectrum for this technology. Philips Healthcare is also developing MBAN technology.
“This is an important inflection point, as it enables advances in miniaturized wireless sensors leveraging the latest chip design and clinical measurement technologies," Mike Harsh, GE Healthcare's vice president and chief technology officer, said in a May 24 news release. “MBANs could significantly enhance quality and access to patient care, while supporting reduced costs.”
The FCC voted this morning during an open meeting in Washington. The rule is expected to be released today.