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Research presented in JAMA Network Open found that pulse oximeters more commonly overestimated arterial oxygen saturation for Black and Hispanic patients hospitalized with COVID-19 when compared with White patients. Blood oxygen levels were measured with fingertip pulse oximeters, followed by a blood draw. Researchers found Black patients were nearly 50% more likely than White patients to experience undetected low blood-oxygen saturation. Hispanic patients were 18% more likely to experience an issue. The overestimation was associated with delayed care, according to researchers.

In the big-picture: Federal regulators are looking into how fingertip pulse oximeter readings may be contributing to racial disparities in the timely delivery of care. In the meantime, experts recommend that clinicians use the readings as an estimate, taking into account the comprehensive presentation of the patient’s condition.

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