Shape of things to comeDedicated band for medical devices

Published 16 March 2009

Making medical records digital, and transmitting medical information among doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies, would save a lot of money and avoid many medical mistakes; the same with allowing patients to stay at home and have the medical equipment they rely upon monitored and activated from afar; trouble is, such digital system is susceptible to network congestion and hacking

Many, including President Barack Obama, see a move toward e-health as a way to achieve major savings in the U.S. health care system. E-health would include making medical records digital; transmitting such records from doctor to doctor, from doctor to insurance company, etc., digitally; allowing the elderly and the disabled to stay home by monitoring and activating health equipment from a central location, and more. The trouble is that this reliance on digital means would run into two potentially serious problems: network congestion, and security. You cell-phone call to a business can, perhaps, wait — but an activation instruction from a physician to a hone-based heart monitor cannot wait. Now, how about this next step: A dedicated frequency band for medical devices. Such a dedicated band would boost confidence and stimulate uptake of wireless technology within healthcare environments. This is one of the recommendations of a new report launched by ERBI Medtech in conjunction with Cambridge Wireless.

The report, “Is the Future of Medical Devices Wireless?” was produced following a workshop that brought together experts from the fields of medical device development, wireless technology and healthcare. The aim was to discuss the issues that face technologists when developing devices for a range of healthcare environments. Barnaby Perks, director of ERBI Medtech, said that wireless is a key enabling technology for monitoring and diagnostics. “The workshop identified clear applications for wireless technology — significantly the remote monitoring of the elderly and chronically ill. However, a big concern for the clinicians was interference between devices on congested frequencies and problems of interoperability. They could envisage a proliferation of monitors and sensors none of which could ‘talk’ to each other,” he added.

The consensus was that a dedicated medical frequency band was required, plus a set of pragmatic operating standards. The view from delegates was that not only would this set a clear framework for device development but it would also enhance public confidence. Many of the healthcare professionals mentioned that patients were concerned about close proximity to wireless devices and a medical standard might reassure them.”

The report, produced jointly with Cambridge Wireless and sponsored by Cambridge Consultants and the Health Technologies Knowledge Transfer Network, is available at ERBI Web site