DO Students Discover Racial Discrepancies in Pulse Oximetry Readings
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DO Students Discover Racial Discrepancies in Pulse Oximetry Readings

October 27, 2022

Headshots of 7 medical students featured in articleSeven PCOM South Georgia students are raising awareness of the disparities that marginalized patients face when using pulse oximetry technology.

Tori Gooden (DO ‘25), Justice Dove (DO ‘25), Dana-Marie Gould (DO ‘25), Lola Sewo (DO ‘25), Anthony Dove (DO ‘25), Laurie’l Latimer (DO ‘25) and DeStandreana Norwood (DO ‘25) were all inspired to pursue research as the topic aligns with their passions of bringing awareness to health disparities and how they affect patient outcomes. The group sought out to investigate how racial discrepancies in pulse oximetry readings among self-monitoring devices affect Black patients.

Recent studies have found discrepancies in pulse oximeter readings among Black patients, posing a problem for both patients and their providers. According to their studies, current pulse oximetry technology is not able to accurately evaluate oxygen saturation in patients with darker skin tones when oxygenation is truly low.

“Since pulse oximetry is an essential evaluation tool for medical care, we knew it was imperative to not only provide awareness for this problem but to also search for possible solutions to help improve these disproportionate health disparities,” said Latimer (DO ‘25).

The students’ research found that pulse oximetry technology does not provide values that accurately represent hypoxic levels in Black patients, and a standard pulse oximetry device using only two-wavelength finger pulse on darker skin tones leads to decreased accuracy.

“With this project we hope to not only bring awareness to these health discrepancies and their affect on patient outcomes, but also hope to show current data that supports how these discrepancies are related to current health disparities such as COVID,” Gould said.

The medical students’ research highlighted the need for accuracy in pulse oximetry readings, stating that inaccuracies can lead to delayed medical treatment, which leads to costly impacts and potentially poor outcomes for patients.

“This research makes people aware of the fact that people with darker skin are more likely to have discrepancies in their pulse oximetry readings,” Sewo said. “This discrepancy is not readily known in the healthcare profession, so the potential for patient harm can be increased unknowingly for minorities. Our research can also be used to implore pulse oximetry manufacturers and other companies that produce medical equipment to design new products that can be used to help improve patient outcomes.”

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In 2019, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied 125-year history, extended its commitment to the Southeast by establishing PCOM South Georgia. An additional teaching location in Moultrie, Georgia, PCOM South Georgia offers both a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Joining PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state, PCOM South Georgia focuses on educating physicians for the region. For more information, visit or call 229-668-3110.

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