The US Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Chairman, Julius Genachowsky, is planning to deliver remarks at an event on 17 May where he will advocate releasing new wireless spectrum to support Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs)-networks composed of multiple medical devices capable of communicating with one another.
As Scientific American reported in 2009, "an MBAN would help hospitals and healthcare clinics better keep tabs on important health-related information, including a patient's temperature, pulse, blood glucose level, blood pressure and respiratory function. Each sensor would communicate information about the patient's body via short-range wireless signals to a small receiver (either handheld or hooked onto a bed or wheelchair) that would use longer-range wireless signals to share that information with the healthcare facility's centralized computer systems-all without the jumble of wires needed to do this today."
While the proposal has been in the works since at least 2009, several Congressmen have been pressuring both the FCC and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue concurrent and harmonized regulations, leading to some delays.
"These new technologies increasingly cross two regulatory structures," wrote the Congressmen in a letter sent to FDA and FCC in April. "It is critical that the two agencies act in concert to provide regulatory predictability, consistency, and swiftness so that needed innovation in wireless medical technology may thrive."
That level of cooperation is now at least theoretically in place, reports The Hill, with the two agencies agreeing that FCC will handle the technical aspects of the wireless devices while FDA will handle the safety and effectiveness of the devices.
Genachowski's 17 May meeting seems aimed at providing further guidance and providing a demonstration of multiple MBAN devices manufactured by GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare.
FCC - Genachowski Remarks On Unleashing Spectrum for Medical Body Area Networks
The Hill - Genachowski to push wireless devices for medical use
Regulatory Focus - Congressmen Pressure FDA, FCC Over Wireless Health Regulation
Scientific American - Medical Monitoring Networks Get Personal