Health IT

FCC: New 5G framework fosters health IT innovation

Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt a flexible framework to make wireless spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for 5G commercial use, and the White House announced a $400 million research plan led by the National Science Foundation that builds on the vote.

5G isn't a particular system or standard. It's more of a catchall term for what will replace the existing 4G state-of-the-art wireless, carrier-based connectivity.

Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, said one of the most significant outcomes of the new rules could be the advancement of health IT capabilities.

"We don't know exactly what 5G is, but we do know it will provide high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency wireless networks," he said at a Brookings Institution event on July 19.

The new framework and the high-speed wireless network it expands could furnish "the incentive to drive competition and bring new services to the [health IT] market," Knapp said.

"All sorts of novel health care applications have been developed" or are in development, he added. He cited the use of wireless medical devices, body sensors and telemetry to help doctors treat patients without in-person interaction.

Additionally, Knapp said the commission's plans "open a world of possibilities" for the future of health care, and the increased speed afforded by 5G technology could enable physicians to perform surgery remotely, detect health issues early through wearable devices and communicate with remote patients in real time.

"The Internet of Things...is fundamentally about the ability to connect with anything or anyone at anytime," he said.

However, the increase in connectivity comes with "the need to build cybersecurity protections into the standards," Knapp added.

He said the FCC is engaged in "constant dialogue" with the Food and Drug Administration, the agency charged with developing cybersecurity guidance for medical devices.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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