MBAN Final Rule Positions Telemedicine To Become The Next Universal Best Practice in HealthcareSeptember 27, 2012
It’s official. On Tuesday, September 11, 2012 The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released a final rule that officially allocates wireless spectrum for the development and deployment of mobile body area networks (MBANs). In its final rule, the FCC will set aside 40 MHz in the 2360-2400 MHz band for wireless medical devices. FCC officials confirmed that allocating this once protected broadband space for MBANs will not cause service disruptions nor interfere with Wi-Fi and other high-powered mobile devices. The MBAN final rule is slated to go into effect on October 1, 2012.
So how does the implementation of MBANs positions telemedicine to become the next universally adopted best practice in healthcare?
Let’s begin addressing this question by describing what MBANs and telemedicine will actually do for patients. Many inpatient and telemedicine monitors today require connecting patients to devices using cables. The elimination of those wires will increase a patient’s mobility which will help contribute to improved patient outcomes, enhancing overall comfort, and improve quality of life. By eliminating the cables that restrict patients to their hospital bed or home, experts say the combination of wireless devices and sensors could transform the way a patient’s health is monitored. With MBANs, patients can stay connected to their clinicians at all times allowing for the continuous monitoring of vital signs even before they reach a hospital, while being moved from unit to unit, and even after they are discharged from the hospital. This technology is essential to reducing the costs of healthcare and giving patients and their providers an uninterrupted portal through which to share information. In other words, telemedicine technology will not only save patients money on their healthcare costs but it could also save their life at the same time. These benefits represent a true win for patients.
Next, here are four ways that MBANs and telemedicine can help physicians and clinicians increase the quality of patient care and improve outcomes:
1) Real time heart monitoring – For patients that are considered to be at high-risk for suffering a heart attack, wireless monitoring devices have already proven to reduce hospitalization and even death through early detection of heart failure. These devices help physicians work more efficiently and effectively since the monitoring device only sends notifications and data when a patient’s heart rate falls outside an acceptable range.
2) Diabetes monitoring – For patients with diabetes, these wireless devices can send alerts to patients and physicians when glucose levels move outside an acceptable range. These same telemedicine wireless devices can also monitor for dietary intake that would affect a patient’s course of action as directed by a physician in real time. This type of monitoring will result in reduced visits to the emergency room by both physicians and patients while alleviating the need for patients to constantly poke themselves to check glucose levels.
3) Hypertension monitoring – The wireless sensor nodes used today to monitor blood pressure have become cost-effective and energy efficient. As a result, this allows physicians to improve the critical monitoring of high-risk patients accounting for stress, eating habits, and other triggers in greater detail. The availability of this real-time data helps physicians accurately pinpoint life-or-death situations and ultimately save more lives.
4) Sleep apnea monitoring – Telemedicine devices used for sleep apnea today are capable of handling both investigatory and direct treatment. Physicians are now better equipped to deliver higher quality care and treatment to their patients due to the sleep patterns, body position, and breathing patterns data available to them through this wireless telemedicine technology.
There is no question that implementing MBANs along with the ongoing development of telemedicine technologies will drive significant improvement in the quality of patient care and outcomes. These telemedicine capabilities represent a true win for physicians, clinicians, and their patients.
For the final point in addressing this question, let’s shift the focus away from patients and physicians and briefly turn our attention to medical organizations. Medical organizations and our overall healthcare system for that matter, have the significant potential to reduce healthcare costs resulting from investments in telemedicine. In 2011, a study released by the National Institute for Healthcare Reform found that hospital readmissions within a month of discharge cost medical organizations over sixteen billion dollars each year. Medical organizations now have the opportunity to leverage telemedicine technology as a means to reduce hospital readmissions and other adverse events which will result in reducing costs over time. The fact is the investment in telemedicine technology is significantly less than the cost associated with readmissions thus resulting in a net cost savings for medical organizations. Here are four ways that MBAN’s and telemedicine can be used to reduce healthcare costs to medical organizations:
1) Remote analysis services – Teleradiology and telepathology are examples of remote analysis services that can help to lower operating costs while delivering higher quality care, especially with low-volume providers. Medical organizations that use these remote services benefit by having 24/7 coverage at a much lower cost than having a full-time radiologist or pathologist on site.
2) Triage Services – There are certain medical conditions where at home triage services provided by nurses and physicians via televisits would reduce the cost associated with emergency room visits.
3) mHealth monitoring – This form of telemedicine can significantly reduce the cost associated with complications due to chronic illness. Averting patient complications proactively will improve the quality and lower the cost of care.
4) Remote monitoring – This form of telemedicine allows patients to be monitored on an outpatient basis in cases where in the past, the same patients may have required hospitalization in order to receive the necessary monitoring and care. Medical organizations that reallocate some forms of monitoring and observation to an outpatient basis will best positioned to reduce inpatient related costs without compromising the quality of care and patient outcomes.
In conclusion, MBANs combined with telemedicine technology offers the entire healthcare system a refreshing and innovative approach to improve the quality of patient care, achieve efficiencies that can reduce overall healthcare costs, and improve patient comfort and outcomes. MBAN’s and telemedicine have the great potential to deliver a complete win for patients, physicians, clinicians, and medical organizations, and as a result, also becoming the next universally adopted best practice in healthcare.