Opportunities and barriers in paediatric pulse oximetry for pneumonia in low-resource clinical settings: A qualitative evaluation from Malawi and Bangladesh

Carina King, Nicholas Boyd, Isabeau Walker, Beatiwel Zadutsa, Abdullah Baqui, Salahuddin Ahmed, Mazharul Islam, Esther Kainja, Bejoy Nambiar, Iain Wilson, Eric McCollum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective To gain an understanding of what challenges pulse oximetry for paediatric pneumonia management poses, how it has changed service provision and what would improve this device for use across paediatric clinical settings in low-income countries. Design Focus group discussions (FGDs), with purposive sampling and thematic analysis using a framework approach. Setting Community, front-line outpatient, and hospital outpatient and inpatient settings in Malawi and Bangladesh, which provide paediatric pneumonia care. Participants Healthcare providers (HCPs) from Malawi and Bangladesh who had received training in pulse oximetry and had been using oximeters in routine paediatric care, including community healthcare workers, non-physician clinicians or medical assistants, and hospital-based nurses and doctors. Results We conducted six FGDs, with 23 participants from Bangladesh and 26 from Malawi. We identified five emergent themes: trust, value, user-related experience, sustainability and design. HCPs discussed the confidence gained through the use of oximeters, resulting in improved trust from caregivers and valuing the device, although there were conflicts between the weight given to clinical judgement versus oximeter results. HCPs reported the ease of using oximeters, but identified movement and physically smaller children as measurement challenges. Challenges in sustainability related to battery durability and replacement parts, however many HCPs had used the same device longer than 4 years, demonstrating robustness within these settings. Desirable features included back-up power banks and integrated respiratory rate and thermometer capability. Conclusions Pulse oximetry was generally deemed valuable by HCPs for use as a spot-check device in a range of paediatric low-income clinical settings. Areas highlighted as challenges by HCPs, and therefore opportunities for redesign, included battery charging and durability, probe fit and sensitivity in paediatric populations. Trial registration number NCT02941237.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere019177
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018



  • children
  • oxygen saturation
  • pneumonia
  • Pulse oximeter
  • South Asia
  • sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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