Study: Forehead thermometers less accurate in detecting fevers among Black patients

Posted at 6:07 PM, Sep 07, 2022

A new study has found that certain types of thermometers may not be accurate among Black patients.

Researchers at Emory University said temporal artery thermometers, thermometers that measure a person's temperature on foreheads, did not accurately detect fevers as a thermometer that checks temperatures through the mouth.

“This study showed a lower odds of identifying fevers in Black patients with temporal thermometers, while there was no significant difference in white patients,” said the study's author Dr. Sivasubramanium Bhavani in a news release. “This is an important finding because health systems routinely use fever cut-offs to alert or notify team members about care pathways, such as sepsis alerts to deliver timely triage and antibiotics. If fevers are going undetected, then alerts are not being activated. The differences in detection of fevers could lead to delays in antibiotics and medical care for Black patients.”

Reseachers said they looked at 4,375 adult patients who were admitted to four Emory Healthcare hospitals between 2014 and 2021.

Of those patients, 2,031 self-reported as Black and 2,344 self-reported as white, the researchers said.

For each patient, researchers said they looked at the first pair of oral and temporal temperatures that were taken within one hour of each other on the patient's first day of hospitalization.

Researchers found that a forehead thermometer was 26% less likely to detect fevers in Black patients than a mouth thermometer, according to the news release.

According to the study, for white patients, temporal thermometers were not significantly different from oral thermometers.