Wireless monitoring technology is expected to boom in the coming years, however, not all manufacturers are buying into medical body area networks (MBANs), ModernHealthcare reports (MH).
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside an allocated spectrum band for MBANs,
which are low-power “wideband networks” consisting of multiple body-worn sensors that transmit a variety of patient data to a control device.
MBAN devices allow patients to be free from cables that tether them to hospital beds, while also providing a cost-effective way to monitor every patient in a healthcare institution, according to the FCC.
Spectrums allow a frequency platform for which such devices can be delivered. These frequencies can be used for radio, television as well as wireless transmission.
Sotera Wireless, a San Diego-based start-up developer of sensory wireless technologies believes that there is more than enough evidence to rely on a hospital’s Wi-Fi network to monitor patients, rather than on an MBAN spectrum.
“We don’t think it’s necessary to have protected spectrum,” said Jim Welch to ModernHealthcare—Sotera’s vice president of quality systems, regulatory and clinical affairs. “The need for dedicated MBAN just constitutes, in my opinion, a land grab.”
Wi-Fi technology, according to Welch, enables patients more mobility since they are not tethered to a hub device such as an IV or electrocardiogram (EKG), which can often times be expensive.
Additionally, the U.S. sanctioned spectrum for MBAN technologies represents less than half of the market, he says.
Skepticism aside, companies have been receiving more funding for all wireless health monitoring devices in the past year.
In the first quarter of 2013, companies developing remote patient monitoring technologies received $42 million in venture funding, according to an analysis by Rock Health.
Funding looks to explode in the next two years, according to a Deloitte study published in 2012, which show that the market for all wireless health monitoring devices in the U.S. alone will hit $22 billion by 2015.
While the current market is valued at $7 billion, an engaged patient population, an aging baby boomer population and the evolution of payment models that reward better patient outcomes will look to drive the wireless market, writes ModernHealthcare.
While it could be several years before the first MBANs developed to use the FCC’s allocated spectrum will hit the market, they are expected to arrive within the current decade, according to GE Healthcare’s Chief Technology Officer Charles Giordano in the MH article.
“We’re not talking about a 10-year development here,” Giordano said to ModernHealthcare.
An estimated 5 million disposable sensors will enter the market in the next five years, according to data
from ABI Research published this month.
The cost of such wireless devices continues to be a main concern among developers.
While development of sensors is considered inexpensive and cost-effective, the introduction of new medical technology usually comes with a “higher price tag,” according to Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego.
“Every time there’s been new technology in medicine, it’s been associated with higher costs,” he says. “We’re not at a point in our world where that can be tolerated.”
Written by Jason Oliva