For Immediate Release:
July 16, 2013


Elizabeth Hollis
+1-703 253-8262

AAMI Tells FCC to Give Healthcare Facilities
‘Priority Access’ to Spectrum

AAMI has submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommending that as the agency seeks ways to make additional spectrum available to unlicensed devices, healthcare delivery organizations be given vicinity-based prioritized access to these new bands.

In February, the FCC announced it was taking steps to increase available spectrum in the 5 GHZ band to reduce anticipated congestion. The proposal would make up to 195 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum “available for ultra-high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi—known as ‘Gigabit Wi-Fi’—by up to 35 percent,” then-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at the time. The commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comments from interested parties.

Many medical applications operate on the unlicensed 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. However, no interference protection exists in the bands, posing the potential risk to patient safety due to connectivity challenges, AAMI notes in its comments. Thus, simply making new spectrum available in the 5 GHz band with no sort of interference protection or coordination of use could create further challenges in ensuring safe and effective device operation as this new spectrum becomes increasingly congested over time.

“Allowing healthcare vicinity-based priority access to one of the 5 GHz U-NII bands under discussion will provide much-needed spectrum for medical devices to operate in a managed interference environment,” AAMI says. Should this spectrum become as congested as the 2.4 GHz band, this proposal provides a safety valve.

Experts believe that this allocation would allow hospital information technology (IT) managers to fully manage this spectrum in their healthcare delivery organizations, thereby providing another tool to mitigate risk and support patient safety when deploying life-critical wireless devices. The comment also proposes use of this provision for critical applications in nonhealthcare settings. Other users located in the vicinity of these priority applications would be required to discontinue use of the spectrum—a move that would affect less than 0.05% of the population, according to the comments.

AAMI says its proposal resulted from discussions among organizations and individuals with in-depth knowledge of wireless issues. The common bond among these individuals and groups is “patient safety, where ‘mission critical’ is ‘life critical.’ ”

To read AAMI’s comments, please click here.

AAMI, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1967. It is a diverse community of nearly 7,000 healthcare technology professionals united by one important mission—supporting the healthcare community in the development, management, and use of safe and effective medical technology.