Technology is evolving at such a fast pace that promises of technological transformation does not seem weird or something that cannot be achieved. It’s not hard to accept that a sensor as small as Band-Aid can collect information about heart rate and temperature and transfer the data using wireless signal to smart phone or other devices in future. Yes, this is exactly what next generation wireless monitoring promises to deliver. The conceived idea to change into action will off course take several years. However, the devices if developed successfully, can transform the health care industry to a great extent.
The first network connections for monitoring patients were wired. Wi-Fi connectivity as an option to monitor patients is comparatively a new idea that has started gaining popularity now. However, connecting the hospitals’ devices with the Wi-F is not an easy task. There are endless challenges that lie in the design and network management that requires support for high bandwidth applications and real time streaming traffic.
The Federal Communications Commission has allocated spectrum last year specifically for Medical Body Area Networks or MBANs. 40 MHz of protected spectrum in the 2360-2400 MHz band is finally accepted to be set aside for the medical devices. A silver of this spectrum has also been kept aside for monitoring patients at home.
MBANs are low power wideband networks that consist of several human body worn sensors which can transmit varieties of patient data to nearby hub devices. Wireless devices operating in the MBAN spectrum can monitor patient’s health condition, body glucose, electro cardiogram readings, blood pressure and even are attached with the facility of neo-natal monitoring. Clinicians can intervene and save life based on the real time and accurate data achieved by the means of the devices.
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Improving the quality of patient care
The advantages of using MBAN devices are many. It can free patients from being tethered with cable wires on hospital beds. It will increase the comfort and mobility of the patients within the hospital set up. Patient’s condition can be monitored even before they arrive in the hospital or they have already left the place. The method is cost effective also. Healthcare providers will have a chance to identify life threatening problems even before the disease reach critical stage.
Most of the tech pros believe that there will be significant rise in the demand for Wi-Fi on hospital medical devices. This is because care providers are mobile and patients are encouraged to be mobile. Therefore, smaller and sophisticated devices which can meet the changing requirements will only survive in the market.
MBAN, the technology in details
A typical Medical Body Area Network consists of MedRadio programmer which is a controlled transmitter, referred as a hub device, put in the device close to the patient and numerous medical devices affixed on human body, all of which can transfer and accept non-voice data or related instructions for device control. The devices serve the purpose of recording the psychological parameters or sometimes performing therapeutic function radiating bi or uni-directional signals that are electromagnetic.
The hub accumulates patient’s health information from the body worn sensor and transmits the data using health care unit’s local area network, which can be hospital Wi-Fi, Ethernet or WMTS (Wireless Medical Telemetry Services), to health care professionals who will monitor the patient’s data. There has to be a central control point to manage the MBAN operations within the health care unit. The hub will also connect to this central management point with the help of the hospital’s LAN.
Connecting the medical devices to the hospital’s LAN will no doubt improve clinical services enabling the health practitioners to access real-time patient data, but how to protect the sensitive patient information. In order to protect the Assigned Medical Transport (AMT) from harmful interferences, AMT and MBAN frequency co-ordinator will work collaboratively.
Several years is still left before the developed MBANs using spectrum hit the market. However, the time gap does not restrict the innovations and continued adoption of wireless remote technologies that can be utilised to monitor and assimilate psychological data of patients, regardless of the setting where the treatment is being carried out.
Not all the manufacturers are interested to focus their development strategies on MBAN spectrum. However, good number of companies have already started to work on sensor based technologies that are to be used in the clinical set ups. However, the exponents of the MBAN spectrum allocation are of the opinion that the safety structure has to be stronger to restrict interference for the monitoring devices that monitors vital signs of the patients. In addition to the monitoring facilities, it is expected that the devices down the line will be able to act as a warning system that can recognise the changes in patient’s condition.
A lot of effort is to put into the hospital to home concept of monitoring as well. As you get out of the invasive areas of monitoring and go farther away from the hospital, the impact of MBAN will be larger. Though the remote monitoring is of intent interest, primarily, the companies focus exclusively on hospital setting. A number of mobile applications have also been developed to track the health data.
Every time a new technology is introduced in the medical sector it is associated with high costs. The health sector is therefore little concerned whether the changes will fit in their cost model. The proponents of MBAN ensure that the technology is going to be productive for the customers and will be affordable.