In what would represent an important step forward in revolutionizing the way patients are monitored in the future, GE announced an initiative aimed to develop wireless medical monitoring systems, or body sensor networks (BSN), which would replace the traditional tangle of bedside cables used to capture a patient’s vital signs. GE’s vision for the systems would enable wireless monitoring from anywhere in the hospital—or even remotely from home.
GE Healthcare, in conjunction with GE’s technology development arm, Global Research, is now developing BSNs, which consists of sensor devices that collect critical patient-specific information, including temperature, pulse-oximetry, blood glucose levels, electrocardiogram readings, blood pressure levels and respiratory function. This real-time patient information can be collected and transmitted to doctors and nurses to enable efficient patient monitoring from any location. Improved clinical decision support systems ensure health care providers have the most current patient information as they evaluate treatment options.
The FCC recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), acting upon GE Healthcare’s petition to establish a new, vendor-neutral dedicated radio frequency band for low-power, short-range, wireless patient monitoring devices. This petition requested creation of a new Medical Body Area Network Service (MBANS), to support wireless sensors that monitor a patient’s health state, linked together in body sensor networks.
“GE Healthcare applauds the FCC’s NPRM proposing to create a dedicated radio frequency band that will help remove a major obstacle to the adoption of wireless medical Body Sensor Networks,” said Munesh Makhija, General Manager of GE Healthcare Systems and Wireless. “We will continue to collaborate with industry, the FCC and other regulatory agencies to ensure the proper allocation of spectrum enabling next generation wireless monitoring devices. By replacing burdensome bedside-monitoring cables, BSNs could enable critical-care patients to move around freely, which studies suggest is essential to efficient recovery.”
“I strongly support the allocation of wireless spectrum for medical body sensor networks,” said Nathaniel Sims, physician at Mass General Hospital, assistant professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and physician advisor, Biomedical Engineering at Partners Healthcare. “By eliminating restrictive clinical cables, body sensor networks represent a logical evolution in patient monitoring. This technology affirms my commitment to flexible, transportable monitoring systems. Body-worn sensors could free patients from the limitations of stationary bedside monitors, improving quality of care.”
GE Healthcare Solves Monitoring Challenges
Patient monitors typically tether patients to their beds with restrictive wires and cables presenting challenges for caregivers and patients alike. For caregivers, wired monitors restrict the ease of patient transport, limit the flexibility of acuity monitoring, and hamper infection control and data integration. For patients, being confined to a bed restricts mobility and comfort which impedes recovery.
GE Healthcare is developing new technologies like BSNs that solve these problems, meeting the unmet needs for caregivers and patients—improving clinical outcomes and caregiver workflow. BSNs could free patients from the limitations of bedside monitoring units, promoting improved mobility leading to reduced length of stay and enhanced clinical outcomes. Additionally, BSNs would eliminate the need to disconnect and reconnect wires as patients change care areas. This is critical as patients often require varying levels of care throughout their hospital stay, progressing from low-acuity to high-acuity and back to low-acuity before discharge.
Today, many patients are treated in specific care areas based on monitoring need alone. Studies show that patients are often admitted to the ICU because of a monitoring need, rather than for specialized nursing care. BSNs will bring hospitals greater monitoring flexibility and scalability so they can monitor more patients with fewer staff. With BSNs, caregivers will be able to quickly add or remove parameter sensors as medical conditions warrant, integrating and evaluating parameters to make informed treatment decisions. Additionally, BSNs will allow caregivers to wirelessly monitor many parameters outside of specialized care areas. For example, EEGs, a measure of brain electrical activity, could be measured outside the neurology unit.
GE Healthcare encourages health care providers and other interested parties to submit their comments in support of the proposal to the FCC. The proposal requests the FCC allocate frequencies 2360 to 2400 MHz on a secondary, licensed basis for low-power, short-range, wireless medical devices such as BSNs. These new frequencies will provide a protected spectrum for wireless medical BSNs and reduce the potential of interference from ubiquitous unlicensed radio devices such as Bluetooth™, Zigbee™ or Wi-Fi™. The future success of the proposal and FCC NPRM depends upon supportive comments which convey the potential benefit of this new wireless technology to the efficient delivery of health care.
About GE Healthcare
GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care. Our broad expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, performance improvement and performance solutions services help our customers to deliver better care to more people around the world at a lower cost. In addition, we partner with health care leaders, striving to leverage the global policy change necessary to implement a successful shift to sustainable health care systems.
Our “healthymagination” vision for the future invites the world to join us on our journey as we continuously develop innovations focused on reducing costs, increasing access and improving quality and efficiency around the world. GE Healthcare is a $17 billion unit of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE). Worldwide, GE Healthcare employs more than 46,000 people committed to serving health care professionals and their patients in more than 100 countries. For more information about GE Healthcare, visit our website at www.gehealthcare.com.