Nearly 15% of middle-aged and older Americans (1 in 7) have a lung disease. 16 million have been diagnosed with COPD and millions more are undiagnosed but suffer from symptoms, including difficulty breathing. For primary care physicians and pulmonologists, it can be challenging to manage a patient’s conditions and symptoms between visits. For patients, it can be confusing to know when to seek help if, for instance, breathing seems harder than usual.
Why Blood Oxygen Levels Matter
Blood carries oxygen to cells in all organs. When blood oxygen, or blood saturation, levels decrease, it can be a sign of potential health issues. Low blood oxygen can cause headaches and difficult breathing. It can also compromise the health of other organs, including the heart, brain, and liver.
When blood oxygen is monitored daily, care providers can intervene early to assess symptoms and determine if additional testing or treatment is needed before there is an impact on organ health.
An Easy-to-Use RPM Device
A pulse ox device integrates easily into Remote Patient Monitoring (“RPM”) services because the device is so easy to use. By simply clipping the pulse ox to the patient's finger, the reading takes about 15 seconds and can make adherence and engagement much higher relative to some other devices. In fact, the American Lung Association describes a pulse ox device as an easy, safe, and fast way to measure the percentage of oxygen in the red blood cells.
Pulse Oximetry and Lung Disease
A pulse ox device can be used to detect a variety of lung diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, lung cancer, occupational lung diseases (exposure to dust, chemicals etc.) and more. Understanding trends in pulse ox measurements can help care teams make better treatment decisions. It can also help patients make more informed lifestyle choices by demonstrating how their daily activities impact their condition. Additionally, It can help care teams make decision on treatment plans, including supplementing a patient’s oxygen intake.
Pulse Oximetry and COPD
COPD patients, including those with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, have inflamed airways in their lungs, making it difficult to get oxygen to their body tissue. Measuring pulse ox can catch dangerous dips and fluctuations in blood oxygen levels. Employing a pulse ox can also catch exacerbations and a need for oxygen therapy early.
Pulse Oximetry and COVID
COVID-19 is a lung disease that can cause severe breathing issues. COVID can reduce a person’s oxygen level in their blood and that can be an early warning sign that medical care is needed. A patient with COVID, especially those with a history of respiratory illness, could likely benefit from daily monitoring of blood oxygen levels while they are sick.
Beyond Lung Health
Primary care physicians, pulmonologists, and cardiologists know that heart and lung health are often interconnected. Diseases don’t typically exist in isolation. For patients with complex or multiple chronic conditions, multiple devices, such as blood pressure cuff and pulse ox, can work together to provide a more holistic view of a patient’s health.
Multiple devices can also increase compliance. Some days, a patient may not have 3-5 minutes to take a blood pressure reading, but they might have 15 seconds for a pulse ox reading. More data from more devices can also provide increased coaching and wellness opportunities.
Equipping Patients with the Right Devices
RPM is only effective if patients are regularly using their devices and taking readings. The “right” type of device will vary by patient, but there are several key variables to consider. The first is the patient’s comfort level with technology. Bluetooth devices offer more features, such as apps and tracking data history, but are much more complicated to set up and maintain than cellular devices.
For patients in rural areas, connectivity is a key factor – do they have better WiFi service (Bluetooth) or cell service? Your RPM vendor should offer both cellular and Bluetooth options so you can choose the right fit for your patients.
Ready to Improve the Lives of Your Patients with Lung Disease?
Optimize Health now offers both cellular and Bluetooth pulse ox devices. With more device options, we are confident we can help more patients suffering from lung disease use RPM to improve their quality of life. If you want to talk to an RPM expert about how your practice could add pulse ox to your existing RPM program or to launch a new RPM program, schedule a free consultation.
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