Group says doctors and nurses should have access to proposed Canadian wireless network that originally was largely for police, fire, paramedics and crash investigators

CATA now pushes for m-health in emergency network

The organization that represents the many of the country’s high tech companies is urging Industry Canada to expand the number of people eligible to access a proposed public safety wireless network to include doctors, nurses and clinicians.

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) has issued a release calling on its members to lobby Members of Parliament and the press to urge Industry Canada to include mobile health (m-health) uses for the proposed network.

“Recent emergencies in public health and increased reliance on m-Health have demonstrated the criticality of getting the right information securely into the hands of those who need it most, in real time, and across jurisdictional boundaries,” said CATA CEO John Reid in the release.

“Enhancing quality, improving convenience, extending reach and reducing cost of healthcare are the potential benefits of m-Health should the underlying mobile infrastructure be designed to provide ubiquitous broadband “medical grade” performance. Local governments, public safety and healthcare agencies across the country are evaluating the benefits of broadband wireless mobile networks for remote access to information, both mission critical and routine, to improve real-time situational awareness for better decision making and to enhance collaboration and information sharing.”

Almost a year ago the Harper government decided that a section of valuable 700 MHz wireless spectrum should be set aside for a public safety wireless broadband network.

The idea is first responders will be able to send live video and still images from special cellphones – either single or dual-band — or in-vehicle cameras from emergency sites to their headquarters for improved response. The network would be interoperable with a planned U.S. network running on similar spectrum so emergency responders near the border can talk to each other.

Many details have yet to be worked out, including who would own and manage the spectrum.

Last fall Industry Canada began a public consultation on the idea, which for most of the telecommunications industry has meant a network used by police, fire, ambulance workers and the like.

CATA’s push to include m-health uses for the network marks a bit of a change. In an October, 2012 submission to Industry Canada it made no mention of healthcare users having access to the network.  Its call to start lobbying MPs also comes long after the Nov. 26 deadline for submissions to Industry Canada on the public safety network closed.

CATA’s point man on this is Michael Kedar, a wireless telecom verteran who now heads Toronto-based MobileExchange Spectrum Inc., which leases spectrum in the 24 GHz range.

Kedar, a members of CATA’s national leadership council, has been campaigning for some time for the federal government to include m-health in its long-delayed digital strategy and 700 MHz spectrum use policy.

In an interview Friday he said that it doesn’t make sense that ambulance and paramedic staff will be on the proposed public safety network, but not doctors and clinicians who they communicate with. In fact, he said, access could also include patients with real-time wireless medical monitors.

Health professionals should have access to a secure network, he said, and not have to send patient information over commercial cellphone networks where they don’t have priority.

If Ottawa allocates 20 MHz of spectrum for the network – and so far it has only suggested setting aside 10 MHz in the so-called D block — there would lots of room for m-health uses, he said.

Kedar also argues there’s a financial reason to add m-health: Local police and fire departments don’t have the money to build a wireless public safety network. But if the provinces – which largely pay for healthcare – can be convinced there could be cost savings in m-health, they could be persuaded to help fund the network.

In a statement Industry Canada said it is still considering potential applications and uses for the public safety network. A decision will be released in a policy later this year.

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