FCC to allocate spectrum for wireless medical monitoring
May 17th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

FCC to allocate spectrum for wireless medical monitoring

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.

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. USA

    Good advancement.

    May 17, 2012 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply


    May 17, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. wayne

    that's awesome!!

    May 17, 2012 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. CharlieB

    I like the idea, anything we can do to lower the cost of medical bills will help everyone.

    May 17, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. William

    This comes at the same time that another part of the WMTS spectrum devoted to medical telemetry (and some radio astronomy) is poised to be more quietly taken away. For a discussion of this see the post at: http://aamiblog.org/2012/05/09/rick-hampton-why-you-should-care-about-the-middle-class-tax-relief-and-job-creation-act-of-2012/

    May 17, 2012 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. krehator

    "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."

    These saving never seem to materialize on your medical Bill. Regardless, it is a good idea.

    May 18, 2012 at 07:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. AppFan

    There is an app for that too!


    May 18, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Senator

    It is the beginning.....and then they will implant a sensor in every live birth.

    May 20, 2012 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.