Now that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to permit unlicensed devices to operate on the same channel as the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS) used by hospitals, many are wondering what this change will mean.

After all, the FCC established the WMTS to prevent interference at health care facilities after cardiac telemetry systems were disrupted at two Dallas hospitals in 1998. Dallas TV station WFAA was testing its new digital television transmitter, and the interference led to a national discussion on how to make sure medical telemetry systems are protected from future disruption. In 2000, the FCC established the WMTS. 

In 2001, the FCC issued a memorandum of understanding with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), a professional membership group of the American Hospital Association, as its frequency coordinator for the WMTS. ASHE's role has been to review and process WMTS coordination requests; register a hospital’s WMTS equipment before it is deployed; and keep a database of all deployed WMTS equipment, identifying it by location, operating frequency, emission type and effective radiated power. The database was created to help health care providers quickly discern which frequencies may be used in a given area.

ASHE is hosting a free webinar on Sept. 8 to help health facility leaders sort it all out. In the meantime, check out this list of resources to learn more about the WMTS.

  • ASHE’s WMTS reference room has a wealth of resources, including how to handle electromagnetic interference and conduct risk assessments for medical telemetry equipment.
  • ASHE keeps a record of health care facilities with deployed WMTS equipment and gives background on frequency coordination.
  • The FCC Encyclopedia offers background on WMTS, including its licensing and operating rules.
  • The Food and Drug Administration gives industry guidance regarding Wireless Medical Telemetry Risks and Recommendations. It also offers guidance on submitting a 510(k) for a change to an existing wireless telemetry medical device.
  • ASHE explains how to register for WMTS online.