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Remote Monitoring News

FCC Ruling May Harm Remote Patient Monitoring Systems

By Vera Gruessner

- The remote patient monitoring arena is being affected by federal regulations that may have negative consequences for the patient community and providers as well. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has moved forward in implementing a new ruling that allows “unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices” including microphones to utilize channels in the 600 MHz and television broadcast (Channel 37) bands, according to an FCC press release.

Federal Communications Commission

“The Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order that modernizes its Part 15 rules to accommodate growing demand for and encourage innovation in unlicensed use,” the press release states. “The Report and Order adopted today is designed to allow for more robust unlicensed use and to promote spectral efficiency in the 600 MHz band.”

The report and Order allows for stronger and more “efficient operation of fixed and personal/portable white space devices” as well as offers certain parameters for the devices to work in a 600 MHz band along with channel 37 “on a shared non-interference basis with medical telemetry and radio astronomy.”

In addition, the FCC guidelines increased the location and frequency data in whitespace databases. The new rules also request that certification, manufacturing, and marketing of these whitespace devices have a transition period in which the developers can comply with the amendments.

These new amendments, however, may negatively impact the healthcare industry particularly when it comes to remote patient monitoring. Three US Senators including Tammy Baldwin, Amy Klobuchar, and Debbie Stabenow sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in which a three-month delay for these technical rules is requested.

The letter states the issue at hand, which is that the Federal Communications Commission needs to create effective technical rules for sharing information, which will affect the safety and utilization of remote patient monitoring technology in the medical field.

The senators further probe the FCC to allow for more time among medical technology stakeholders to adopt a technical sharing agreement so that safe use of remote patient monitoring systems can be ensured in channel 37.

“Wireless medical telemetry service (WMTS) systems for cardiac and fetal monitoring in hospitals have long used channel 37 to operate without interference, which could severely impact patient health and safety,” the letter to the FCC chairman stated. “Hospitals and professionals rely on WMTS every second of every day to keep patients alive and safe. It is essential that WMTS devices can continue to operate without any interference from TVWS devices.”

The senators sent forward comments from 150 hospitals that delved further into the benefits and concerns surrounding WMTS. Real-world testing results of WMTS interference among three hospitals was also submitted to the FCC.

Essentially, it is important for the FCC to slow down and delay some of the technical decisions surrounding the sharing of channel 37, the senators explained in their letter. A short delay is important when it comes to the safety of remote patient monitoring systems.

As the healthcare industry continues to revolutionize remote patient monitoring technology, it will be essential that regulators work with industry stakeholders to develop safe and effective rulings surrounding these innovations.

Remote patient monitoring is a rather complex field today with a wide array of new devices and applications affecting health and wellness tracking. Along with the new guidelines coming out from the FCC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also classifying whether certain remote patient monitoring devices need extra regulation.

As the healthcare industry continues to adopt innovative technologies over the coming years, providers, regulators, and other stakeholders will need to work together to ensure that patient safety is addressed effectively.

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