Evaluating the use of pulse oximeters in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic
Photo by Angelov/Adobe Stock
Pulse oximeters had been used in many responding care homes before the pandemic, but that use significantly widened during the pandemic.
What is the issue?
Rapid evaluations can be useful in providing evidence on innovations in health and social care that can be used to inform policy and practice. However, there are few comprehensive accounts of how to successfully conduct such large-scale rapid evaluations.
Using the case study of a national mixed-methods rapid evaluation of COVID-19 remote home monitoring services in England, we investigated whether it is a good idea to test care home residents’ blood oxygen saturation levels with pulse oximeters, as part of monitoring their health outside hospital.
How did we help?
We, along with collaborating researchers from the University of Birmingham, conducted a survey of care home managers and undertook a programme of online interviews with care home and NHS staff at case study locations. The work was undertaken in England in the first half of 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What did we find?
We found that pulse oximeters had been used in many responding care homes before the pandemic, but that use significantly widened during the pandemic. Pulse oximeters were reported by care home managers and staff to be straightforward to use and to provide reassurance to residents and their families, as well as to staff. Additional support provided through the NHS COVID Oximetry @home programme was welcomed at the care homes receiving it, but over half of survey respondents were unaware of the programme.
What can be done?
Using pulse oximeters in care homes is considered by managers and staff to have been beneficial to care home residents. Ongoing training opportunities for care home staff in use of pulse oximeters would be beneficial. Escalation processes to and responses from NHS services could be more consistent, alongside promoting the NHS COVID Oximetry @home programme to care homes.