Vivid Violet Team 2021

Kaavya Chaparala, Brandon Gray

Redesigning the Pulse Oximeter

Black and brown communities in the U.S are often disproportionately affected by pandemics. Not only do these communities deal with occupational or geographical factors which make them vulnerable to pathogens, they also must contend with significant racial bias within the medical field which can result in poorer healthcare. While medical schools and hospital practitioners undergo the racial reckoning brought on by the Black Lives Matter movement, medical instruments must also be scrutinized. Developed at a time when Caucasian was parroted as the norm, many medical devices used today have racial bias encoded into their design. The pulse oximeter is a tool used to read blood oxygen levels of a patient. This instrument was originally calibrated on Caucasian skintones and returns increasingly erroneous results for darker skin tones. Such error significantly impacts a patient’s treatment when they are on the cusp of needing to be administered oxygen1. In this senior design project, the Vivid Violet team used makeup as a stand in for different skin tones and proved that given data that captures the error in pulse oximeter readings on different skin tones, it is possible to predict the erroneous results and correct for them.

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