Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN): High Level Overview

Published on November 16, 2012

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Joining us for another guest blogging series is Robert Buczkiewicz, LSR's Director of Hardware Development, to discuss Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN). Robert has over 30 years experience in the development of low power wireless communication systems. Over the next three weeks he will walk us through a High Level Overview, Regulatory Testing Requirements, and frequent Q&A's associated with MBAN. 

personWashington, D.C.—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has advanced its wireless health care agenda by adopting rules that will enable Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN), low-power wideband networks consisting of multiple body-worn sensors that transmit a variety of patient data to a control device. MBAN devices free patients from cumbersome cables that tether them to their hospital beds. MBAN devices provide a cost effective way to monitor every patient in a healthcare institution, so clinicians can provide real-time and accurate data, allowing them to intervene and save lives. Wireless devices that operate on an MBAN spectrum can be used to actively monitor a patient’s health, including blood glucose and pressure monitoring, delivery of electrocardiogram readings, and even neonatal monitoring systems. MBAN devices will be designed to be deployed widely within a hospital setting and will make use of inexpensive disposable body-worn sensors. MBAN technology will also make it easier to move patients to different parts of the health care facility for treatment and can dramatically improve the quality of patient care by giving health care providers the chance to identify life-threatening problems or events before they reach critical levels. Now that the FCC MBAN regulations are in place we can expect to see activity in the design and development of RF modules, custom protocols, and body worn antennas.   

Currently almost 50% of all patients in U.S. hospitals are not monitored. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that MBAN systems will enable patient monitoring in real time that is both accurate and cost-effective. “A monitored patient has a 48% chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unmonitored patients have a 6% chance of survival.” By allowing for continuous monitoring of patients, MBAN enabled devices can help doctors respond more quickly in emergency situations and improve overall in-home patient care as well. According to the FCC, this action “represents an improvement over traditional medical monitoring devices,” as it makes it easier to move a patient, allows for increased patient comfort, and could represent annual savings of $1.2 billion in expenses accrued after relocating patients to different clinics and departments. 

This final ruling sets aside 40 MHz of protected spectrum in the 2360-2400 MHz band specifically for wireless medical devices. Dedicated spectrum should help alleviate the interference problems normally associated with Wi-Fi and other high-powered devices used in hospitals. The 2360-2390 MHz frequency range is available on a secondary basis. The FCC will expand the existing Medical Device Radio communication (MedRadio) Service in Part 95 of its rules. MBAN devices using the band will operate under a ‘license-by-rule’ basis, which eliminates the need to apply for individual transmitter licenses. Usage of the 2360-2390MHz frequencies are restricted to indoor operation at health-care facilities and are subject to registration and site approval by coordinators to protect aeronautical telemetry primary usage. Operation in the 2390-2400 MHz band is not subject to registration or coordination and may be used in all areas including residential.

To continue reading the MBAN overview, which includes technical requirements, download our full report.