of oximeter for checking oxygen saturation in blood on male hand.

 A new study questions technology’s ability to successfully monitor and treat some ailments remotely. The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that asking patients with COVID-19 to monitor for shortness of breath at home using pulse oximeters did not improve outcomes.

The report was based on results from a program at the University of Pennsylvania that sent text messages and monitoring prompts to patients who were recovering from the virus at home. The program began in 2020 and ran for two years, including 28,500 patients. 

In this particular study, between November 2020 and February 2021, a randomized controlled trial was developed using 2,000 patients who were assigned either a pulse oximeter or standard care without the use of in-home oxygen measurements. The study found there were no significant mortality outcomes with patients using the equipment and those who did not. 

“Several health systems, and even states like Vermont and countries like the United Kingdom, have integrated pulse oximetry into the routine home management of patients with COVID-19, but there’s been scant evidence to show this strategy makes a difference,” principal investigator M. Kit Delgado, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology, said in a statement. 

The study also noted that having pulse oximeters did not lessen patient anxiety. Despite the findings, the researchers said self-monitoring with pulse oximeters might still be reasonable for patients who don’t have access to on-call clinicians or an established home health monitoring program. 

Other researchers have touted the use of remote patient monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two research teams at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals in Cleveland said in a recent JAMA opinion article that remote patient monitoring of vital signs, such as heart rate and pulse rates, are effective and should continue after the public health emergency ends.