FCC To Expand Broadband Spectrum for Mobile Health

The Federal Communications Commission is focused on expanding the availability of radio frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum for mobile health innovation, FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology Chief Julius Knapp said during the agency’s mHealth Innovation Expo last week, FierceMobileGovernment reports.

According to Knapp, the agency will work on both licensed and unlicensed spectrum (Walker, FierceMobileGovernment, 12/11).

Background on Spectrum Allocation

Last year, FCC released a final rule to allocate spectrum for medical body area networks, which 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.

In addition, hospitals can wirelessly monitor patients using low-powered devices that would turn off when patients moved outdoors (iHealthBeat, 5/9).

Future Spectrum Allocation for Mobile Health

Knapp said that there has been a lot of recent attention on accessing spectrum for smartphones and tablets. He noted that expanding spectrum for such uses would benefit mobile medical applications.

He added, “We also have some work ahead … [on what] we can do to possibly create medical test beds and to see how we can improve upon our authorization program at the FCC and similar programs at the FDA to make that process as straightforward for people as possible.”

He said, “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, and this is just the start”

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