If you’re a reader of this publication, you are probably aware that iPads and smartphones aren’t the only devices struggling to find their place on emerging healthcare networks. For example, medical devices are increasingly going wireless (see our recent story on wireless smart infusion pumps) and becoming edge devices feeding into the EMR.
Now, enter the wireless sensor as a contender. In an intriguing move, the agency is considering setting aside spectrum specifically dedicated to Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN), groups of patient-attached sensors collecting clinical information and transmitting it wirelessly to enterprise systems.
The FCC announced late last month that it would like to reserve the 2.36 to 2.40 gHz band exclusively for MBAN devices. If it does so, it will make the United States the first country ever to allocate spectrum exclusively for such purposes.
According to data provided by Smartplanet.com, 80 percent of doctors support the use of MBAN devices. That’s logical, considering that doctors are already used to using wireless smartphones, iPads, Android tablets and laptops to send and retrieve medical data.
As doctors grow used to being able to access more data more of the time, I’m not surprised that they’d want patients monitored wirelessly as well. EMR, iPad and the wirelessly-connected patient are a common-sense trifecta that seems ripe to reduce hospital readmissions, improve outcomes and allow patients to be safely monitored at home.
Now, even if the FCC moves ahead with its plans — which it says are intended to spark MBAN innovations — that doesn’t mean hospitals will opt to pay for the emerging technology. Most will probably wait until there’s a significant body of evidence and use cases to support buying wireless sensors and integrating them with their EMR.
In the mean time, though, I’ve got to say I’m excited to hear about this. Remote monitoring of patients, be it at home, in a hospital, skilled nursing facility or other setting, just seems like a great idea. MBAN use can offer immediate benefits in a world where such are rare indeed. I say, “FCC, bring it on!”