GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare commend FCC rule for wireless medical sensor technologies
GE Healthcare (NYSE: GE) and Royal Philips Electronics (AEX: PHI, NYSE: PHG) applaud the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today for its action allocating protected spectrum for wireless medical devices, called Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs), which could revolutionize the way patients are monitored and help eliminate the restrictive cables that tether patients to hospital beds. MBANs—small, wearable wireless sensors that capture patient vital signs—could help extend care anywhere throughout the hospital or even remotely in the home. By providing access to spectrum that is free of transmissions from WiFi and other ubiquitous high-powered consumer devices, the FCC’s ruling is a key enabler for MBANs.
Today, nearly all patient monitors are connected to patients via cables. By eliminating these wires, MBANs could help patients be more mobile, which may contribute to improved patient outcomes and recovery, and enhance their overall comfort. Small, wearable sensors could collect real-time clinical information such as temperature and respiratory function, and aggregate it at a nearby device for local processing and forwarding to centralized displays and electronic medical records.
“MBANs represent the next evolution in monitoring a patient’s health status,” said Dr. Richard Katz, Director, Division of Cardiology, Bloedorn Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University Hospital. “These wireless innovations can enhance patient safety by giving caregivers the ability to monitor many clinical measurements, wherever the patient is located.”
MBANs could offer the following, additional benefits in the hospital:
In the current healthcare system, patients are primarily monitored in acute and critical-care departments. MBANs are low-cost wearable sensors that could allow clinicians to view vital signs for a patient wherever they are—from hospitals to emergency vehicles to the home.
- Early intervention: Clinicians can catch issues before the patient’s condition becomes critical, thus improving patient outcomes while avoiding the need for acute interventional measures.
- Ease of patient transport: There will no longer be a need to disconnect and reconnect wires prior to transporting a patient.
- Infection control: By limiting the wires, MBANs could help reduce the risk of infection and the need for cleaning procedures.
- Flexibility: Caregivers will be able to quickly add or remove sensors for different physiological parameters as medical conditions warrant.
About the protected radio frequency band for MBANs
After significant consultation with the FCC and the medical industry, GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare identified and advocated for MBANs to share a piece of the spectrum traditionally used by the aerospace industry and government agencies for flight testing. In 2011, the medical and aerospace industry submitted a joint proposal to the FCC detailing how MBAN devices could reliably share wireless spectrum with safety-related aeronautical telemetry operations. This consensus-building approach is a unique example of how different industries, given compatible technologies and appropriate terms, can seek to share limited spectrum resources.
“With access to special-purpose spectrum, the healthcare industry’s research and development efforts can go into overdrive,” said Anthony Jones, chief marketing officer, Patient Care and Clinical Informatics, Philips Healthcare. “The expansion of wireless monitoring capabilities will help allow earlier clinical diagnoses, decisions and interventions, supporting the delivery of better patient care at lower costs.”
With this ruling, the FCC has allocated 40 MHz of spectrum—2360 to 2400 MHz—for use by MBAN devices on a shared, secondary basis. This provides a spectrum band for short-range medical technologies to facilitate reliable low-power operation. The FCC’s rule aligns with its National Broadband Plan, which set the goal of advancing several specific “national purposes” including healthcare.
“The FCC’s ruling is the culmination of strong collaboration between the medical industry, regulatory officials and aeronautical stakeholders,” said Mike Harsh, vice president and Chief Technology Officer at GE Healthcare. “This is an important inflection point, as it enables advances in miniaturized wireless sensors leveraging the latest chip design and clinical measurement technologies. MBANs could significantly enhance quality and access to patient care, while supporting reduced costs.”
GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare appreciate the hard work done by the staff of the Office of Engineering and Technology, and particularly appreciate and thank the chairman, commissioners, and their legal advisors.