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Correcting Racial Bias in Measurement of Blood Oxygen Saturation

Rohan Myers, Saad Khalid, woojeong kim, Brooks Miner, Jaychandran Padayasi


Fingertip pulse oximeters are the current standard for estimating blood oxygen saturation without a blood draw, both at home and in healthcare settings. However, pulse oximeters overestimate oxygen saturation, often resulting in ‘hidden hypoxemia’: a patient has hypoxemia (dangerously low oxygen saturation), but the oximeter returns a healthy oxygen value. Unfortunately, oximeter overestimation of oxygen saturation is exacerbated for patients with darker skin tones due to light-based oximeter technology. This results in Black patients experiencing hidden hypoxemia at twice the rate of white patients. By combining pulse oximeter readings (SpO2) with additional patient data, we develop improved methods for estimating arterial blood oxygen saturation (SaO2) and identifying Hidden Hypoxemia. The predictions of our models are more accurate than pulse-oximeter readings alone, and remove the systematic racial inequity inherent in the current medical practice of using oximeter readings alone.

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