On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to approve a plan to allocate spectrum for medical body area networks, or MBANs, the National Journal/Yahoo! News reports (Mazmanian, National Journal/Yahoo! News, 5/24).
How the Technology Works
MBANs are wireless systems that use wearable sensors to monitor patients' vital signs, such as blood glucose levels, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory health and temperature.
Under FCC's plan, MBANs can use the newly allocated spectrum to form a wireless network, aggregate information from the wearable sensors and transmit the data to a centralized computer system. Health care providers then can conduct real-time monitoring of patients who use wireless medical devices (iHealthBeat, 5/17).
In addition, hospitals can wirelessly monitor patients using low-powered devices that would turn off when patients moved outdoors (Shields, Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/24).
Implications of the Vote
FCC's approval makes the U.S. the first country to allocate spectrum for MBANs.
Julius Genachowski -- FCC chair -- said U.S. companies now will be able to take the lead in developing MBAN technologies.
FCC is working with FDA to streamline the process for approving MBAN devices (National Journal /Yahoo! News, 5/24). The process could call for FCC to review the technical aspects of a device, while FDA would review its medical features.
MBAN devices will need to receive FCC and FDA approval before they could be used in hospitals (iHealthBeat, 5/17).