Key Perelman School of Medicine research leaders in the project included Kathleen Lee, MD; Anna Morgan, MD, MSc; and M. Kit Delgado, MD, MS

A study headed by LDI Senior Fellows and Perelman School of Medicine researchers has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Top 20 Clinical Research Achievement Awards of the Clinical Research Forum.

The annual national award program is designed to identify and celebrate major advances in clinical research.

The study, “Pulse Oximetry for Monitoring Patients with Covid-19 at Home: A Pragmatic, Randomized Trial,” answered a critical question at the peak of the pandemic: does distributing pulse oximeters, fingertip devices that measure oxygen in the blood, improve outcomes compared to monitoring for symptoms of shortness of breath alone. With funding support from the Patient Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the research team set out to find out.

Remote Monitoring

At the start of the pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania Health System developed a remote monitoring program called COVID Watch consisting of two weeks of automated text-messages to patients with COVID inquiring about shortness of breath and offering rapid call backs from nurses. Between November 2020 and February 2021, 1,217 patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection who were being monitored via COVID Watch were randomized to receive a fingertip pulse oximetry or remain in COVID Watch without the device. This study showed that the addition of pulse oximetry did not save more lives, did not keep more people out of the hospital, and did not make patients feel less anxious. Providing fingertip pulse oximetry was more resource-intensive leading to more nursing phone calls in addition to the costs of distributing the devices.

Given there are still hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19 per week worldwide, this study demonstrates that more scalable symptom-based approaches such as COVID Watch are just as effective as distributing pulse oximeters for monitoring large populations of patients with COVID-19 while also being less labor intensive.

28 Researchers on the Team

Published in the April 6, 2022, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the study report authored by Delgado and 28 other researchers and clinicians in the COVID Watch project was named one of the Top 20 in the annual Clinical Research Forum competition. The final decision about which of the Top 20 winners will move up to become the Top 10 winners is expected by early February.

Key Perelman School of Medicine research leaders in the project included: M. Kit Delgado MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Emergency and Epidemiology and Director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit; Kathleen Lee, MD, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and former Director of Clinical Implementation for the Center for Health Care Innovation; Anna Morgan, MD, MSc, LDI Senior Fellow, COVID Watch Medical Director and Director of the LDI-Penn Medicine Research Laboratory; Krisda Chaiyachati, MD, MPH, Adjunct LDI Senior Fellow and former Medical Director of the Penn Medicine OnDemand Virtual Care; and David Asch, MD, MBA, LDI Senior Fellow and Senior Vice Dean for Strategic Initiatives.

The Clinical Research Forum is a 26-year-old nonprofit organization focused on promoting understanding and support for clinical research and its impact on health and health care. Its members are among the nation’s most prestigious academic medical centers and health systems.

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