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Owlet Smart Sock: Pulse Oximetry in the home

This blog post is part of a series from Dr. Ken Ward. You can learn more about Dr. Ward here

In the decades I’ve worked in maternal and fetal medicine, I have sent at-risk babies home with hospital-grade monitors. Not only were the parents anxious and concerned for the well-being of their newborns but also worried about using the monitor correctly. Unfortunately, the hospital-grade monitors were somewhat cumbersome; large in size with multiple cords attached, and required sensor pads to be attached via adhesive backs to small little feet. Too often, false alarms occurred due to the movements of the infant, which added to the parents’ already anxious state.

The Owlet Smart Sock is a more reasonable monitor for the home setting. It has been extensively tested to validate the accuracy of the device against other oxygen and pulse monitors. The design is more appropriate for home use.

It is impossible for the baby to become entangled in monitor cables since the sock uses a wireless sensor to communicate health information to the home base.

Risks for adhesive-related skin irritations and burns from pulse oximeters monitors are minimized. The sock uses sensors (similar to those used in Fitbit® or the Apple® Watch) that use considerably less power than hospital pulse oximeters which would virtually eliminate any risk of burning the baby. The sock is held securely on the foot by straps, reducing the risk of skin irritations that can be caused by adhesives used with pulse oximeters.

False readings or false notifications are reduced because the Owlet Smart Sock can detect when the infant is moving. Owlet designed a system of notifications that differentiates between a displaced sensor and a significant decrease in a baby’s heart rate. As a result, a very high rate, 99% of Owlet Smart Sock users, have used the device without ever receiving a false notification. This is great news since it reduces the risk of overdiagnosis due to misinformation.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this post! When we left the NICU with our little one, we inquired about the Owlet. The NICU nurse told us that we should not buy a device like the Owlet because they are unreliable and could give us a false alarm. She said that if we needed pulse-ox monitoring, the doctor would have prescribed us a hospital grade device for home use. We decided to ignore that advice because, frankly, I’d rather than a thousand false alarms than one missed opportunity to arouse our little baby when she needed help remembering to breathe. As it turns out, we did receive three red alarms on different nights after going one and the third was very serious. On the night of the third alarm, we were so concerned about our baby’s health that we took her to the ED and were subsequently transferred to the PICU for three days of enhanced observation. We love having an Owlet, despite what the NICU nurse had to say about it. These days we even plug it into our Jeep and monitor her status while on long drives. We love to know that she is sleeping comfortably … and breathing.

    1. Thank you Tom for adding that you can plug into your car!!! I had no clue that was possible and am so glad to know that additional information. We lost our 2 month old Baron Nov. 2015 due to SIDS and have made the decision to add another little one to our family due Oct. 2017. This Owlet monitor is something we will be purchasing to help us monitor our little one.

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