FCC Requires Hospitals to Register WMTS Equipment

AHA/ASHE ISSUE REGULATORY ADVISORY: FCC REQUIRES HOSPITALS TO REGISTER WMTS EQUIPMENT, IT'S SMART PR

Per Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule, all Medical Telemetry transmitters operating in the WMTS bands must register with the WMTS Frequency Coordinator to avoid harmful interference, which can disrupt vital patient physiological information. The FCC has designated the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) as the Frequency Coordinator of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS). ASHE has partnered with Comsearch, a specialist in frequency coordination, spectrum management, and wireless engineering, to ensure proper spectrum coordination.

WMTS use is licensed under FCC rule part 95 (47CFR 95, Subpart H). Per FCC rules, all WMTS transmitters must be labeled stating the requirement for frequency coordination prior to its initial use. Healthcare providers seeking authorization to operate WMTS equipment must register their hospital and any remote telemetry site(s) online at www.ashe.org. Registration includes such information as: legal name of the authorized healthcare provider, address of hospital and remote facilities, and point of contact for the healthcare provider. For this facility registration, the hospital will be charged a one-time administrative fee of $125. All requests from eligible healthcare providers will be honored on a non-discriminatory, first-come, first served basis. Once registered, the hospital will be assigned a password to access and search the WMTS database to identify other users and potential sources of interference within their specified area.

When the hospital is ready to purchase new WMTS transmitters, or coordinate equipment already in service, users can enter their password to access the on-line WMTS frequency coordination system at www.ashe.org, or www.wmtssearch.com. Access to the database will allow them to conduct a search of all existing frequency usage within a user-defined area, and select frequencies for their deployment from a list of those available. To submit proposed frequencies, the user is required to provide detailed information on the proposed transmitters including: proposed location of transmitters (latitude and longitude coordinates), street address, unit or floor, transmitter manufacturer, model, effective rated power, operating frequency, etc. Once this data is submitted, ASHE/Comsearch will perform a search of other registered WMTS near the hospital's location. These results will display which frequencies are in use and which are available. In addition, the results will indicate any Digital TV stations within the search area. Finally, the results will indicate if it is necessary to coordinate with US government Radioastronomy stations and military radar systems.

The basic fee for each frequency coordination survey is $250 (regardless of the amount of transmitters). For more complex coordination activities including coordination with government radar and radio astronomy sites, addition fees are charged. Go to www.ashe.org for the fee schedule.

Once the user selects frequencies for their deployment and commits them to the database, ASHE will generate a frequency certificate for the deployment indicating each registered frequency. This certificate validates the provider's use of these frequencies and is valid for the life of the equipment at that location. Upon permanent removal of the equipment from service, the healthcare provider must notify the frequency coordinator and request cancellation of the certificate. In addition, if the system is relocated, or otherwise altered to add frequencies, change the number of transmitters, or expand the coverage area, the provider will have to perform another analysis and obtain another coordination certificate.

The FCC did not grant ASHE the authority to select which frequency should be used. However, in the event that a potential frequency conflict is identified during the frequency coordination survey, WMTS usage, users may contact Comsearch for a detailed interference analysis, and a recommendation of which frequencies to use.

The FCC expects that there will be few conflicts among users of WMTS equipment due to its low operating power. In the event that a conflict occurs between current WMTS users, ASHE will assist the users to resolve any conflicts among themselves. In the event a resolution cannot be reached, the FCC will make the final decision on a case-by-case basis in disputes between users. The FCC will coordinate the frequency allocations with Canadian and Mexican governments as appropriate. Given the low-power nature of this equipment, they do not anticipate any interference issues in border areas.

For more information, go to www.ashe.orgwww.comsearch.com or please contact John Collins, Director of Engineering and Compliance-ASHE, at jcollins@aha.org or (312) 422-3805, Dale Woodin, Deputy Executive Director-ASHE, at dwoodin@aha.org or (312) 422-3812, or H. Mark Gibson, Senior Director, Business Development - Comsearch at mgibson@comsearch.com or (703) 726-5718.

Brief Background on Why the FCC granted Medical Telemetry Primary Status through the Establishment of the WMTS

The medical community has becoming increasingly dependent on wireless telemetry for monitoring patient vital signs. It is critical that these biomedical telemetry systems operate effectively in their intended hospital environments.

In the past, most wireless medical telemetry devices operated as secondary users in select commercial broadcast TV bands at 174-216 MHz (channels 7 to 13), 470-668 MHz (channels 14 to 46), and in private land mobile radio service (PLMRS) at the 450-470MHz bands. As secondary users, medical telemetry devices had to accept interference from, and not interfere with, primary licensed users. The spectrum used by wireless medical telemetry equipment on an unlicensed or secondary basis has increasingly been used by existing primary services, thereby posing an increased risk of interference.

An example of this occurred in 1998 when WFFA in Dallas tested its new digital television transmitter. No one anticipated that this test would create interference on the medical telemetry monitors at a nearby hospital. But create interference it did, completely disrupting the monitored signals of critically ill patients. Although no patient was harmed during this incident, it clearly demonstration of the ever -present risk of interruption to critical patient transmission equipment.

In response to the growing concern of electromagnetic interference of medical telemetry equipment resulting from the introduction of digital television service, low power television transmitters, and reorganization of mobile radio channels, the FCC has dedicated a portion of the radio spectrum for wireless medical telemetry devices such as wireless heart, blood pressure, and respiratory monitors.