Local Health Plan Distributes Oxygen Monitors to Central Coast Providers
A pulse oximeter can provide an early warning of oxygen deprivation and breathing problems associated with COVID-19 pneumonia. Acting on information from public health representatives, CenCal Health procured and distributed 2,000 pulse oximeters to various health care providers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. CenCal Health is the Medi-Cal health plan that contracts with over 1,500 physicians, hospitals and other providers in these two counties on the Central Coast.
Community Health Centers of the Central Coast (CHC) is one of the providers that received the easy-to-use monitoring tools for its COVID-19 positive patients. CHC plans to distribute the pulse oximeters as part of a COVID Care Kit that also includes masks, hand sanitizer wipes, thermometers and more.
COVID pneumonia causes oxygen deprivation that may not initially manifest as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – resulting in patients not feeling sick enough to seek medical help. Yet the pneumonia could already be at a critical stage. This “silent hypoxia” can be detected and treated with the help of oximeters that measure blood oxygen saturation levels. Whether monitored at home or at the doctor’s office, this device helps determine how sick a patient is so that action can be taken quickly to avoid extended hospitalization and mechanical ventilation.
“We have seen that when patients monitor their pulse and oxygen levels at home, they have a better sense of how sick they are, and can present to the hospital sooner and require less mechanical ventilation,” said Dr. Polly Baldwin, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Medical Director. “In short, early recognition of respiratory distress has helped save a number of lives in Santa Barbara County already.”
Pulse oximeters are as simple to use as thermometers. A small battery-operated device is placed on top of the patient’s finger. The display gives two numerical readings: oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Most healthy people will get an oxygen reading around 95 to 98 percent. The oximeters purchased and distributed by CenCal Health include two batteries and instructions in both English and Spanish.
“We wanted to give our providers another tool in their COVID-fighting arsenal that can increase positive outcomes while lowering overall cost of care,” said Bob Freeman, CenCal Health CEO.
About CenCal Health
CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to nearly 190,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. cencalhealth.org