EarSwitch®️ calls for greater collaboration to get more accurate medical devices to market
Updated: Aug 14
In-ear technology creator EarSwitch®️ is calling for established med tech companies to work more urgently with health-tech innovators to get fit-for-the-future medical devices into the hands of health professionals sooner.
Studies suggest that people with darker skin could be at risk of worse patient outcomes than lighter-skinned patients. This is because of the widely used finger-clip pulse oximeter’s inherent inaccuracy when detecting blood oxygen levels through darker pigmentation.
The non-intrusive finger pulse oximeter that delivered blood oxygen levels in less than five minutes was a breakthrough when it was created in 1972. It works by using the ratio of red to infrared light absorption of the blood as it pulses at the end of the patient’s finger.
Now research points to the device overestimating arterial oxygen levels in people with darker skin tones. In a COVID-19 context alone, where, as a result of this inaccuracy, more black patients than white could have been refused anti-viral or oxygen treatment, the impact of this inaccuracy is worrying.
As a result, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently updated its guidance on the use of pulse oximeters. And in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care has launched a review into equity in medical devices. It wants, ‘to establish where and how potential ethnic and other unfair biases may arise in the entire lifecycle of medical devices, and the extent and impact of these.’ Its findings are expected in the coming weeks.
But with often lengthy routes to market for medical devices, EarSwitch®️ is suggesting more collaboration between patient-centred, innovative technology suppliers and creators to bring a new and inclusive standard of care to all.
Former GP and Founder of EarSwitch®️, Nick Gompertz, says, ‘During our research into the potential of the ear for people with motor neurone disease, we discovered that our EarSwitch™ could detect more reliable core measurements that would be appropriate for people whatever their skin colour. This means getting a partner on board with our technology, for example, would be creating the world’s first core (i.e. close to brain and heart) racially-agnostic blood oxygen measurement tool.
There must be lots of organisations like ours, with great technology in its infancy, which the medical profession could really benefit from – sooner rather than later.’
Nick says anyone wishing to kick-start a conversation can contact him at: email@example.com.
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