Julius Genachowski, Chairman, FCC, claimed in a press conference at George Washington University Hospital that the move would result in the development of “new monitoring technology” that “will result in higher quality care and also lower health care costs”.
These claims were supported by claims that this spectrum would ensure “that wireless sensors don’t have to be replaced when a patient is moved from one area of the hospital to another” and this “alone could result in $1.2 billion in annual savings”.
Supporters of the initiative include GE Healthcare, whose CTO, Michael Harsh, supported the initiative by claiming that “the technology would not only make it easier to monitor patients, but could help reduce infections, since cables used to connect monitors can harbor disease-causing bacteria… …the technology will free patients from the tangle of cords currently used to connect sensors”.
Richard Katz, Director, Cardiology, George Washington University Hospital, contributed to the need for dedicated spectrum to be allocated by claiming “I can’t even get my stethoscope on the chest any more. There’s just no room”.
Asides from vested interests of regulators and a few big legacy MedTech firms is there any benefit in this for patients?
Obviously a major political problem in the USA is that regulatory capture requires such exaggeration but is anyone really so naive that they are going to buy this initiative from an agency that clearly would love to hold a spectrum auction? Is anyone really going to believe that it is some failure or shortcoming of mobile networks that prevents patients being followed up when they leave hospitals?
It continues to amaze me that anyone could think that connectivity protocols developed for medical devices will be more open, robust and cost effective than those that are being developed from technology that is being exploited by billions of connected consumer devices and a world of innovation.
Over the last decade we’ve seen step changes happening in terms of the quality of patient care because rapidly advancing consumer devices are ALREADY being used in healthcare eg. SMS and MMS being used to communicate with patients, connected tablets being used to revolutionise access to information in clinical settings, programmable OS’s have enabled millions of mobile subscribers to benefit from health monitoring services, bluetooth 4.0 devices that have enabled encased smartphones to record and share ECGs, 3G mobile video calls that have literally put an informed Doctor in the pockets of patients, etc, etc.
In my opinion the FCC and the supporters of this bid have a flawed understanding of the challenges and they’re lending support to a counter-productive effort. It won’t be regulators stepping in to drive the creation and development of dedicated medical networks that will help us exploit the potential mHealth offers but the recognition that we’re at a stage where we should be accepting that it’s time to follow what’s working in other more technologically advanced industry sectors.
Agree? Disagree? Am I being unfair to the FCC? Please share your thoughts in the comments…