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March 25, 1998
Joint Statement of the
Federal Communications Commission and the
Food and Drug Administration
Regarding Avoidance of Interference Between
Digital Television and Medical Telemetry Devices
Certain medical telemetry devices, such as cardiac monitors, are allowed to use TV broadcast
channels that are unoccupied in their geographic area. However, television stations are now
beginning to use these formerly unoccupied TV channels as they transition to digital television
service. When this occurs, the digital signal may interfere with medical telemetry systems.
Such cases of interference have occurred recently and fortunately no patients were significantly
affected. The Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration
are taking steps to avert such cases of interference in the future.
Medical telemetry devices have long shared the TV broadcast spectrum on a secondary basis.
This sharing can continue during the implementation of digital television. However, it is
important to ensure that broadcasters, the health care community and manufacturers of medical
devices have adequate information and take appropriate steps to avoid radio frequency
The FCC and the FDA are taking the following actions to address interference to medical
Federal Communications Commission:
- The FCC will ensure that TV broadcasters communicate with area hospital and other health
care facilities to avoid interference to medical telemetry devices.
- The FCC is contacting manufacturers of medical telemetry devices to ask that they assist
their customers in determining whether they may be effected by new DTV operations and,
if appropriate, assist them in finding vacant channels.
- The FCC will provide easy access to information on spectrum sharing between DTV and
medical telemetry devices on the FCC Internet web site. This will include a Fact Sheet
and a listing of the channels that will be used for digital television service in each area.
Food and Drug Administration:
- The FDA is sending a Public Health Advisory to all U.S. hospitals and nursing homes,
alerting them to the potential problem and providing advice on how to avoid future
- The FDA will work with medical device manufacturers to assure that medical devices are
adequately labeled to alert users about the need to take steps to avoid interference.
Joint FCC & FDA:
- The FCC and FDA will explore the long term spectrum needs of medical devices so as to
avoid future interference problems.
- The two agencies will work with equipment manufacturers and the health care community
to consider various long term technology improvements that might ameliorate the