HDTV Broadcast Signals
Overwhelm Heart Monitors
By Rick Lockridge
DALLAS (CNN) -- High definition television may be the wave of the future. But a recent incident in Dallas has raised questions about unintended consequences that could result from new digital television broadcasts.
When Dallas TV station WFFA turned on its new HDTV transmitter to test it, the powerful signal overwhelmed low-power heart monitors at Baylor University Medical Center.
As a result, nurses were unable to keep an eye on their patients' heartbeats.
Station officials say they had no idea that their broadcast on a previously vacant channel was going to block Baylor's monitors. When the station discovered the problem, it turned off the transmitter.
The Federal Communications Commission has allowed hospitals to use vacant TV channel frequencies for their wireless medical devices. But last year, the FCC warned hospitals that broadcasters were about to start using those same channels for HDTV.
"Because interference could endanger the health and safety of patients, it is expected that health care facilities would expend considerable effort to avoid operating on nearby broadcast channels," the FCC wrote.
But no organized effort was made to find out exactly who was using the vacant channels and what potentially dangerous conflicts might arise.
And now that HDTV broadcasts are beginning in some large U.S. cities, hospitals and other users that had been borrowing the unused frequencies for years will have to come up with other alternatives.
That could be expensive. Baylor has had to fork out $200,000 for new transmitters for its heart monitors that operate on a different frequency.

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