GE: Wireless interference holds back body sensor networks

By Brian Dolan
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GE Healthcare and GE's technology development arm, Global Research, announced an initiative focused on developing body sensor networks (BSNs) that will "collect critical patient-specific information." Examples of the types of vitals and biometrics GE plans to develop sensors for include temperature, pulse-oximetry, blood glucose levels, electrocardiogram readings, blood pressure levels and respiratory function.

"The great thing about this data is that it can be collected and then processed locally at the patient or transmitted electronically to a centralized monitoring station, so that a doctor can monitor how a patient is doing whether they are checking them at the hospital or from their office and even home," David Davenport, a member of the Radio Frequency and Photonics Laboratory at GE Global Research wrote on the company's research blog, From Edison's Desk. "We think BSNs could play an important role in helping healthcare providers meet growing patient demands in an increasingly challenging work environment. With approximately 80 million baby boomers in the US, the number of hospitalized patients is projected to increase as this population ages. This increase comes at a time when many doctors and nurses are retiring. Reporting requirements for hospitals also are significant, with more than 300 different requirements that need to be managed. BSNs could help healthcare providers do more with less and ensure patient care continues to remain strong."

Davenport explained that BSNs could help reduce the time it takes to administer care, which is a substantial part of the patient's experience since a recent survey Davenport found indicated that 40 percent of patient care time in a standard hospital setting is spent manually recording patient monitor informations. BSNs could automatically transmit that data.

GE has also been lobbying the FCC to create a dedicated band of spectrum for body sensor networks and the agency has issued a notice of proposed rule making in favor of the idea.

"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," Munesh Makhija, General Manager of GE Healthcare Systems and Wireless stated in a company press release. "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."

For more on the initiative, read the company's full press release here
For more from Davenport, check out this short video about the benefits that medical BSNs bring to the patient experience: