New research into oxygen therapy for COVID-19 patients

patient on oxygen

Treating COVID-19 patients with oxygen therapy can be important because the disease is primarily a respiratory illness, and improvements in oxygen therapy lead to improved morbidity and mortality outcomes.

A new research study has been launched by experts at University Hospitals Birmingham and University of Warwick – supported by the Health Foundation, UK – to investigate factors that influence how well oxygen is used across hospital wards where treatments take place. Evidence in other medical conditions shows that over-oxygenation can have negative health outcomes, while over-use also reduces the amount available for treating other patients.

Optimal use of oxygen is vital for treating COVID-19 patients, most of whom can be managed in normal wards, as well as the minority that progress to intensive care units. BHP’s Professor Alice Turner, who is co-lead on the project, said:

“Oxygen is a drug, and optimising prescribing is critical in a range of medical conditions, of which Covid-19 may be one. It is important to understand and optimise practices, including prescribing of oxygen, for Covid-19 patients, in order to improve outcomes for hospitalised patients.”

Data collected from the four UHB hospitals will be analysed to describe patients receiving oxygen therapy and assess how well it is prescribed. The results of the study will enable better understanding of staff-patient dynamic in hospital environments where considerable pressure is being experienced on a daily basis. Specifically, recommendations will be made to the Health Foundation concerning potential behavioural interventions. The aim is to improve treatment and to reduce mortality rates and morbidity related disease complications in the fight against the pandemic, while future behavioural interventions based on the current study will likely involve changes to hospital environments that guide cost-effective use of oxygen and improve health outcomes for a sustainable health system.

This research is supported by the national Health Foundation, UK, University of Warwick and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. Project PI, Prof Ivo Vlaev, and a number of researchers are supported by NIHR ARC West Midlands.