FCC to set aside bandwidth for wireless medical devices

The Federal Communications Commission is planning to allocate spectrum bandwidth for medical devices, which would allow doctors to monitor patients' vital signs remotely. The spectrum is designed to support medical body area network (MBAN) devices, or Band-Aid-sized sensors that emit low-power radio frequencies, CNN reports.

The FCC is expected to approve the program in a final vote later this month, and the devices could replace wired monitors that restrict patients to beds and sometimes keep them in hospitals unnecessarily. Instead, with MBAN devices, doctors could keep tabs on blood pressure, pulse, glucose and temperature remotely.

The FCC's efforts are designed to clear the way. Currently, MBAN devices are just prototypes, and devicemakers, like GE Healthcare ($GE) and Philips Healthcare ($PHG), will need to get FDA approval for their prototypes before the soon-to-be network can be useful.

Regulators say the amount of radiation the devices would produce is negligible, because they emit lower frequencies than Bluetooth headsets. And manufacturers say the net savings for patients could be between $2,000 and $12,000, as the disposable sensors would be considerably cheaper to produce than current technology, CNN reports.

While wireless transmitting medical data may be cost-effective, some are concerned about the security of the information. Earlier this year, a federal advisory board asked the FDA to add wireless security to its criteria for approving medical devices that broadcast medical data, fearing that hackers could steal patients' private information.

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