Technology and market landscape: next generation pulse oximeters

Febrile illness, pneumonia, and anaemia each have multiple etiological origins, present with overlapping symptoms, and often are diagnosed by low-skilled frontline health care workers with insufficient or inadequate tools and high patient loads. Furthermore, health care workers in low-resource settings rely on clinical signs to triage these conditions, despite known issues with the accuracy and reliability of these methods, which results in patients being misdiagnosed and not receiving appropriate care. Providing health care workers with tools to help them identify the signs of severe illness could help overcome these challenges.

Multimodal (or next generation) pulse oximeters —noninvasive handheld devices that expand the features of standard handheld pulse oximeters by additionally measuring respiratory rate, temperature, and/or hemoglobin—are a promising technology that can provide objective measurements to support clinical decision-making. Combining more than one clinical measurement into a multimodal pulse oximeter has the potential to improve the accuracy and efficiency of, as well as adherence to, consultations that facilitate more appropriate diagnosis and integrated management of illnesses. In addition to reducing mortality, multimodal pulse oximeters could further enhance efficient use of resources and reduce the overall strain on the health system by minimizing the need for costly testing, strengthening referral decisions, and reducing unnecessary hospitalizations, intensive therapy, and overuse of antibiotic treatments.

This report aims to assess the potential of multimodal pulse oximeters to improve the integrated diagnosis and treatment of illnesses for patients presenting at health facilities in low- and middle-income countries, with a focus on maternal and child health applications. Understanding technological challenges, existing and pipeline products, and market challenges is key for facilitating equitable access to these tools through market-based interventions.

Publication date: September 2022

Next Generation Pulse Oximeters: Technology and Market Landscape

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