Pulse Oximetry May Add Nothing to Home Care of COVID-19

…per a letter to the editor at New England Journal of Medicine.

Study participants were enrolled from Nov 2020 to Feb 2021. So probably before the delta and omicron variants. Outpatients were assigned either to a “standard program” of home monitoring or the standard program + pulse oximetry. There was no difference between groups in terms of “number of days alive and out of the hospital.” For the 30-day trial, that number was 29.4-29.5. In other words, very few of the ~1000 enrolees got very sick.

Pulse oximeters are readily available in the U.S. for ~$40.

The standard program was “COVID Watch, a 2-week program involving twice-daily automated text messages inquiring about dyspnea and offering rapid callbacks from nurses when appropriate. This program has been associated with improved survival as compared with no remote monitoring.5

I spent about 10 mins trying to find the age of these patients. No luck. I don’t even now if they were adult. Thanks, NEJM. I’m not totally convinced that outpatient oximetry has no role in home treatment of COVID-19. But clearly not every patient needs it. Perhaps just those at high risk of hospitalization and death.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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