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Warning: Telemetry is a Second User.

When safety depends on telemetry devices, nurses need to know what affects telemetry's accuracy and ability to function.

Think radio frequencies, megahertz and bands are the stuff of HAM radio operators? Think again. They are increasingly becoming an issue for nurses. Radio and television frequency assignments have changed tremendously in the last few years, placing medical telemetry in direct conflict with higher powered, licensed users in the VHF television and private land mobile radio service (PLMRS) bands.

Traditionally, telemetry devices operated as secondary users on vacant television channels and certain frequencies within the PLMRS. They had to accept interference from primary users in the band, but could not in turn, produce any interference. However, the advent of High Definition Television (HDTV), low power television stations, new higher-powered PLMRS equipment and microwave oven emissions have made things very difficult for telemetry--and very dangerous for patients. In fact, a few years ago, the test broadcasts of a digital television station in Dallas, TX, interfered with the function of a medical telemetry system at local medical centers. (See box for details.)
AHA Advisory on WMTS

The Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) cast an historic vote
dedicating a portion of the radio spectrum
for wireless medical telemetry
devices such as heart, blood pressure
and respiratory monitors. The creation
of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service
(WMTS) was a direct result of
the American Hospital's Association's
advocacy to the FCC about their concerns
over how electromagnetic interference
with wireless telemetry
equipment can affect patient safety.

This issue gained national attention
when a Dallas TV station, testing
a digital television transmitter
(DTV), knocked out of operation low-powered
heart monitors at Baylor
University Medical Center and Methodist
Medical Center. Fortunately, no
patients were harmed. However, this
disruption placed patients at both facilities
at risk and could have caused
serious injury or death.

In response, the FCC required stations
to notify nearby health facilities
of DTV testing and continued the
freeze on additional licenses being issued
in the private land mobile radio
service band where medical telemetry
equipment also operates.

The complete advisories are available
at the AHA website, www.

Ironically, thanks to managed care, telemetry is one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare. How does this affect nursing practice? There is the obvious: When it's a problem for patients, it's a problem for nurses. Moreover, 19 percent of nurses (believe it or not, that adds up to tens of thousands)manage telemetry units. What if all of the devices on one of those units--perhaps the one in your hospital--went down at the same time? Here are some suggestions about what can nurses can do:

* Pay attention to what is going on. If you hear that a new DTV station is going online, notify hospital administration immediately. Your organization can retune its existing telemetry equipment as a short-term solution.

* Find out more about what is being done about this problem. The American Hospital Association formed the Task Force on Medical Telemetry to look for ways to resolve this issue.

* Talk to your telemetry equipment supplier. Suppliers are responding to these issues, but there are costs as well as other issues involved. Ask questions about everything from what kind of training staff needs to whether or not proposed bands support solutions that meet current and future capacity needs.

Nurses are responsible for the safety of patients, period. If safety depends on telemetry devices--as it does more and more each day-nurses need to know what affects telemetry's accuracy/ability to function.

Leah Curtin, RN, ScD (h), FAAN, is editor-in-chief of CurtinCalls, an irreverent, fact-filled scan of nursing and healthcare, Cincinnati, OH. Roy L. Simpson, RN, FNAP, FAAN, is vice president of Cerner Corp., Kansas City, MO.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event; AHA advisory on wireless tools
Author:Curtin, Leah; Simpson, Roy L.
Publication:Health Management Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Previous Article:Moving to the Next Level.
Next Article:Moving to Mobile.

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