Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 21, 2012

FCC to Vote on New Wireless Communication Spectrum for Medical Users

It’s what many companies are willing to pay anything for, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering giving it away for free to hospitals and healthcare providers so they will have their very own part of the radio spectrum to send and receive signals.

Wireless frequencies are the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The radio spectrum spans a certain, limited frequency range. The radio spectrum is the area in which signals from cell phones and other devices travel to be transmitted. The range of frequencies is fixed and limited, being determined by physics of the universe, according to

The range of frequencies with properties useful for cell phones is small. Therefore, in the U.S., the FCC has control over the allocation of these frequencies, reports. What if it didn’t? If more than one use is provided the same frequency, calls will overlap and interfere with other calls. Imagine someone calling a friend to talk about the latest Katy Perry concert when your hospital is trying to receive a signal that your heart has stopped?  If you’re old enough, you remember the old days when operators connected you and you frequently overheard someone else’s conversation as the lines crossed. 

This is what the FCC is trying to avoid. The commission on May 24 will vote on the adoption of the final rules to allocate a wireless communication spectrum for operating Medical Body Area Networks, or MBANs, according to a story at

MBANs are wireless patient monitoring systems that allow clinicians to remotely monitor vital signs of patients, according to an FCC explanation, posts. The monitoring of vital signs is crucial for people with cardiac and other diseases to make sure they are not in need of intervention when not physically under a doctor’s care.

“Back in 1923, a doctor’s manual stated that the telephone had become as necessary to the physician as the stethoscope,” said FCC Chair, Julius Genachowski, at a recent media event. “Today, healthcare is being transformed once again, this time by high-speed Internet access, or broadband--wired and wireless, fixed and mobile.”

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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