Flawed oxygen readings possibly behind COVID-19 toll on people of color in U.S.: Politico

By Xia Lin

NEW YORK, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Doctors have sometimes failed to diagnose serious cases of COVID-19 among people of color, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges one reason may be flaws in devices it approved to measure blood oxygen levels, reported Politico on Saturday.

"Pulse oximeters can overestimate blood oxygen in people with dark skin, causing doctors to miss patients' distress signals," said the report.

The FDA is convening an expert advisory panel later this year to assess the problem and offer guidance to health care providers. An agency spokesperson said it has prioritized assuring that pulse oximeters are "sufficiently safe and accurate for all people," according to the report.

"But advocates still say the FDA, which issued a warning about the issue last year, is moving too slowly," said the report.

The problem raises broader concerns about bias as technology becomes more embedded in health care, and about the government's ability to counteract it through regulation and oversight, it added.

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