Pulse oximetry is commonly used for measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood.1 The measurement technology became commercially available in the 1980s2 and with no other technology routinely available for monitoring tissue oxygenation, pulse oximetry monitors and sensors typically found in most operating rooms, med surg floors, and various intensive care units.1,2
With such a presence, it’s important to know what’s included in the costs of implementing a pulse oximetry system or changing to a different brand.
This blog highlights the factors that can influence the cost of a pulse oximetry system. There are a few things to consider before you make your selection:
- What is the type of healthcare facility?
- What are the needs of the patients you’ll be treating?
- Will you be participating in a recycling program for sensor reuse?
These questions can help you figure out what equipment is right for your healthcare facility. Also, there are additional things to keep in mind — regarding both a new purchase and long-term use — that could impact the total cost.
This guide will help you breakdown all the factors you need to know.
Cost Benefits of Using Pulse Oximetry
There’s research that shows the cost benefits of using SpO2 to monitor patient respiratory function and safety.
Observational data indicates that anesthetic-related mortality in high-income countries has declined by 64 percent since the 1980s. That’s because monitoring standards, including pulse oximetry, have been widely implemented.3
Patients originating on the general care floor who suffer respiratory events represent a significant economic burden to hospitals.4 Monitoring that offers early alerts to respiratory compromise, such as pulse oximetry, can help hospital staff intervene faster.
A study on the use of continuous monitoring on the medical-surgical floor showed a significant decrease in length of stay, fewer days in the ICU for patients transferred from the medical-surgical floor and a reduction in the number of code blue events. In fact, the study concludes that the lower rate of code blue events suggests that early alerts and faster intervention could prevent patients from reaching a crisis state.5
Overall the cost of implementing pulse oximetry monitoring should be weighed against the clinical data showing that pulse oximetry monitoring has been associated with a reduction in patient rescue and intensive care unit transfers.6
What Equipment is Right for My Facility?
Pulse oximetry consists of two major components:
- A handheld or stand-alone monitor to show the SpO2 level in the blood
- A disposable or reusable LED sensor to analyze blood oxygen saturation levels
Consider the following questions as you evaluate your pulse oximetry equipment needs:
- Does my healthcare system have, or will it consider, a sustainability or recycling program?
- Is there a need for a new monitor(s), or will sensors with my institution’s current multiparameter monitors (MPMs) be enough?
- Would either a stationary or a handheld monitor work best in my facility for the patient population?
The following summarizes the equipment you should consider if you are at one of the following alternative care sites:
- EMS uses mostly reusable sensors in multiparameter monitors. Often ambulances carry a defibrillator that usually has a pulse oximetry socket.
- Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals (LTCH) are facilities that perform continuous monitoring and spot checking. So there’s a combination of reusable and disposable sensors, as well as handheld and bedside pulse oximetry use.
- Durable Medical Equipment (DME)/Homecare patients are mostly sent home with a bedside monitor and a few disposable sensors.
Cost of Sensors
It’s important to assess the different patient populations and select the right sensor for those in your care. Costs can change depending on what suits your patient’s needs.
Currently, sensors can cost from $5 to $15 per patient for disposable or specialty sensors and roughly $70 to $250 for reusable or continuous monitoring sensors. Here are more details:
- Reusable sensors are your more economical option. You can sterilize and reuse them multiple times. They’re also typically grouped under the sensor types: for spot checks and for continuous monitoring.
- Disposable and specialty sensors are the best option if you have a high turnover of patients like in neonatal, ICU, or operating rooms. Also, consider the patient type. There are a variety of disposable and specialty sensors to accommodate different patient needs.
Use the chart below as a guide for areas of care and patient type.
What is the Price of Monitors?
Depending on how you answered the questions above and your plan for the sensors, you may need to consider purchasing new monitors. Using multiparameter monitors that your facility already has is also an option.
Most acute care settings use a multiparameter monitor or a stand-alone monitor like the Nellcor™ bedside respiratory patient monitor — as seen in the following sections.
Our Nellcor™ pulse oximetry sensors work with multiparameter monitors (MPMs) like Welch Allen, GE Healthcare, and more — integrating our technology into multiparameter monitors.
If you are considering Nellcor™ sensors for your current MPM(s), you may need to purchase Nellcor™ SpO2 board(s) or an SpO2 module. That will depend on the current technology in the MPM monitor(s) you have.
Costs can vary widely for SpO2 boards and modules, from $900 to $7,000, depending on the monitor and the manufacturer. It’s best to check with the sales representative from the monitor manufacturer for an accurate price range.
If you don’t want to use a multiparameter monitor or need a more portable solution, we offer three stand-alone pulse oximetry monitors:
†Prices may vary based on contractual agreement, volumes, and commitment levels.
Additional Cost Factors
Once you have reviewed these key points and determined the pulse oximetry equipment needed for your hospital, there are a few other factors to consider that will impact cost.
- Warranty — consider how long you might need your monitor
- Typically pulse oximetry monitor manufacturers provide a one-year or a five-year warranty. Extended service contracts can be purchased separately once the original warranty runs out.
- Because disposable sensors are intended for one-time use, they are not offered with a warranty. Most manufacturers provide a one-year warranty on reusable sensors.
- Mounting Hardware — consider how much mounting hardware costs for the monitors you plan to install.
- Roll stands can cost $325-500 and bedside brackets can cost $115-200.
- Handheld devices typically do not require mounting hardware.
Does Pulse Oximetry Have Long-Term Costs?
Yes, it’s important to plan for your pulse oximetry system. The long-term costs should be a part of that plan. Factor in replacement equipment — anticipating when the warranty ends — and recycling the disposable sensors.
Learn more about pulse oximetry. Contact us.
1. Higgins C. Oxygen saturation—better measured than calculated. Acutecaretesting.org. May 2014. Accessed 02/20/19.
2. Witt C. Vital signs are vital. The history of pulse oximetry. ACP Hospitalist. ACPhospitalisty.org. May 2014. Accessed 02/20/19.
3. Burn SL, Chilton PJ, Gawande AA, Lilford RJ. Peri-operative pulse oximetry in low- income countryside: a cost effectiveness analysis. World Health Organization website. Published Sept. 24, 2014. Accessed 2/20/19.
4. Kelley S, Agarwal S, Parikh N, Erslon M, Morris P. 764: Respiratory insufficiency, arrest and failure among medical patients on the general care floor. Crit Care Med. 2012;40(12): 1-328.
5. Brown H, Terrence J, Vasquez P, Bates DW, Zimlichman E. Continuous monitoring in an inpatient medical-surgical unit: a controlled clinical trial. Am J Med. 2014;127(3):226-232.
6. Taenzer AH, Pyke JB, McGrath SP, Blike GT. Impact of pulse oximetry surveillance on rescue events and intensive care unit transfers: a before and after concurrence study. Anesthesiologists. 2010;112(2):282-287.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Kolleen Konecny