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Doctors with patient
Ars Technica reported this week that the FCC has approved some spectrum changes that will allow Sprint to improve their wireless service (See FCC approves spectrum changes for Sprint and hospitals for details.)  The more interesting news is that the FCC also approved a second set of spectrum-use rules that will enable hospitals to establish medical body area networks (MBANs). An MBAN will allow physicians and nurses to connect patients to sensors that can detect and transfer physiological data.  This could be great for companies such as CardioNet that makes three-lead ECGs and Corventis that makes a bandaid-like sensor that can measure weight and activity levels.  Lightweight and often disposable sensors can transmit information to nurse stations without wires.  I had the privilege of rounding in the critical care unit at Danbury Hospital last week and saw a patient who was covered with wires from head to toe.  The unit director told me that if there was an emergency he would not be able to get to the head of the bed very easily.  The Wall Street Journalsaid that wired connections carry risks, such as infection or being disconnected—intentionally or unintentionally—by patients (See Medical Devices in Hospitals to Go Wireless). A nice by-product would be an increase in patient comfort.  An exciting part of MBANs is that the data will ultimately be able to be transmitted from the home to a secure patient portal that can be monitored by specialists.  An unexpected pattern of data can result in an email or text to a nurse to call or visit the patient.  Home health care today is just 3% of what Medicare spends.  MBANs may be just what Medicare needs to allow for more care for patients in their homes at a significantly lower cost.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is beginning to change the rules so that the cost of remote monitoring can be reimbursed to the providers.