Pulse oximeters are devices clipped painlessly onto fingers to externally measure blood oxygen levels. That would seem to be a singularly straightforward diagnostic, but new research suggests there is a potential racial bias that might put Black patients at risk.
Oximeters work by passing small beams of light through skin and the blood in the finger, measuring the amount of oxygen based on changes in light absorption. Researchers compared readings from oximeters to arterial gas readings, which measure oxygen directly in blood. They found that 12% of the time, oximeters showed Black patients had safe oxygen levels when arterial readings showed them below safe thresholds. The discrepancy occurred less than 4% of the time in white patients.
The study authors say the results have implications for COVID-19 patients whose oxygen levels must be monitored.
An analysis of 24 pediatric clinical trials, published in the British Medical Journal, reports that children admitted to hospitals with clowns (no, really, those folks in face paint and funny hair) report less anxiety during medical procedures than kids treated at hospitals without clowns.
That's no small feat.
Get Me That, Stat!
Prescription drug prices have more than doubled in recent years. Writing in JAMA Network Open, researchers looked at pricing data for 14 top-selling drugs from 14.4 million pharmacy claims. They found that the list price of drugs -- the cost before discounts or insurance payments, and often not what patients pay -- increased 129% between 2010-2016, while median insurance payments increased just 64%. The wholesale price accounted for by rebates and discounts went up by less than 5% during the time period.
53: percent decrease in emergency department visits for child abuse and neglect during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. compared with the same period in 2019