Justification of pulse oximeter costs for paramedic prehospital providers

Prehosp Emerg Care. Apr-Jun 2000;4(2):151-5. doi: 10.1080/10903120090941425.


Objective: To assess the potential cost savings of decreasing prehospital oxygen utilization by using pulse oximetry to identify those patients who do not require supplemental oxygen.

Methods: A prospective, controlled trial was performed comparing rates of oxygen utilization by paramedics with and without access to pulse oximetry. Consecutive patient encounters over a ten-week period were randomized by day of presentation. Pulse oximeters were made available on alternate days. On those days, patients whose oxygen saturations were less than 95% were treated with supplemental oxygen.

Results: The use of pulse oximeters incurred a saving of 0.14 "D"-size oxygen cylinders per call. For the authors' service, this translates to a potential saving of $2,324 (C)/vehicle/year.

Conclusion: For regions with patient demographics similar to the authors', the initial cost of providing paramedics with pulse oximeters may be offset by savings in oxygen consumption. A formula is provided to allow individual ambulance services to calculate the potential savings for their service.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oximetry / economics*
  • Oximetry / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies