ASHE needs your help to prevent harmful interference to wireless telemetry patient monitors

Advocacy Alert

April 20, 2015

In 2000, at the urging of the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dedicated a portion of the radio spectrum for wireless medical telemetry devices such as heart, blood pressure, respiratory, and fetal monitors. The creation of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS) was a direct result of the AHA's advocacy to the FCC about our concerns over how electromagnetic interference with wireless medical telemetry equipment can affect patient safety. This issue gained national attention when a Dallas TV station, testing a digital television (DTV) transmitter, knocked out of operation low-powered heart monitors at Baylor University Medical Center. Fortunately, no patients were harmed; however, this disruption placed patients at risk and could have resulted in serious injury or death. Since 2000, the use of WMTS has steadily increased, and there are now more than 360,000 WMTS patient monitors in U.S. hospitals.

The FCC is currently considering rules that would allow unlicensed devices to operate on the same frequencies as our WMTS. This action could affect all hospitals using wireless patient monitoring devices. ASHE, a personal membership group of the AHA, has worked closely with the FCC staff and commissioners to make them aware of the potential impact harmful interference will have on patient monitoring. But as available wireless spectrum has become scarce, the desire to share previously protected spectrum is simply too great to be altered by one voice. We need multiple voices, telling their story of how WMTS interference may impact patient care in their facility. We need your help.

Please use the following form letter (put on your own organizational letterhead), fill in the hospital specific information, and send this letter to the FCC. Feel free to change the form letter as needed to put these thoughts in your own words and help explain why this monitoring is so critical to your patients. We need your voice to help convince the FCC to put patient safety first and reject all proposals that do not ensure interference-free patient monitoring.

Download Form Letter >> Download the Form Letter Instructions >>

Please contact ASHE Senior Executive Director Dale Woodin, CHFM, FASHE, at dwoodin@aha.org or 312-422-3812, if you have questions about this matter. Feel free to forward this advisory to your clinical and biomedical engineering professionals, critical care physicians, nursing leadership, risk managers, and administration.