Helping Patients Breathe Easier with Pulse Oximeters

COVID-19 Relief Fund: Lily’s Story

Thanks to the generosity of donors to Swedish Hospital’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and the rapid response of a team of Swedish physicians, patients with COVID-19 and other respiratory conditions will now be able to monitor their health in the comfort of their own home, rather than spending days in a hospital bed.  Keeping these patients home and out of the hospital is important—not only to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, but also to preserve critically-needed hospital resources. The idea came from residents in the Swedish Hospital Emergency Department Residency Program and, under the direction of Dr.  Christine Patte, Program Director of the residency program, funds from the Swedish Hospital Foundation supported the purchase of these devices.

In looking at best practices and approaches that other hospitals around the world have been exploring to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including ways to steward hospital resources, the ED Residency team identified the use of pulse oximeters as a way to manage patients experiencing mild to moderate symptoms from the comfort of their own home. While many COVID-19 patients report shortness of breath and other respiratory distress that is understandably alarming, not all of these patients need to be admitted to the hospital. Indeed, we know that many hospitals have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and so the care team at Swedish has been looking for innovative ways to care for these patients while also allocating care appropriately. The use of pulse oximeters is one of these best practices that have shown promising results. When a patient presents with COVID-19 at Swedish reporting trouble breathing or other respiratory distress, but doesn’t require hospitalization, the patient can be sent home with a pulse oximeter. This device safely and painlessly measures a person’s blood oxygen level. In the comfort of their own home, the patient could then easily monitor their oxygen levels over several days, calling in reading updates to their physician for necessary next steps.

A Pulse Oximeter is a portable, lightweight instrument that fits over the tip of a finger and passes a beam of light through the fingertip. By analyzing the amount of light that passes through the finger, it determines the percent of oxygen in the blood and an individual’s pulse.  Within a few seconds, the Pulse Oximeter can provide the patient with information about their oxygen levels, heartbeat and lung health. These data are shared with the care team at Swedish, who can have the patient return to the hospital, as needed, if their symptoms worsen. The patient can feel reassured that they are being monitored while not placing additional burden on the hospital or putting themselves or others at additional risk.

Wasting no time in implementing their idea, the team approached the Swedish Hospital Foundation for assistance in purchasing the Pulse Oximeters. Hear firsthand, from staff in our Emergency Department how pulse oximeters are making a tremendous difference in patient care.

This project is just one example of the ways that our providers and staff are finding creative solutions to address this global pandemic here at home. Swedish Hospital Foundation is supporting efforts such as these through the Swedish Hospital Relief Fund.  According to Dr. Patte, “We are so grateful to generous donors to the Foundation which allowed us to act quickly to help the patients in our community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With their support, we were able to provide patients reassurance and also guidance for providers and predictors for need of hospitalization. This project by our Emergency Medicine residency program was ultimately accepted for publication by the Academic Emergency Medicine Journal.”

If you would like to make an impact in the lives of patients during this time of crisis by donating to the Swedish Crisis Fund, please visit the donation form, or call the Foundation office at 773-293-5121.