“You have COPD” are words no physician ever wants to say to a patient. Yet, millions of people worldwide are newly diagnosed each year. Studies show that in 2019, up to 10.3% of all people aged between 30 and 79 had chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The condition affects more than 15 million Americans, resulting in one death every four minutes. According to the CDC, these numbers add up to 150,000 deaths each year, many of which result from exacerbated symptoms. Since severe COPD exacerbations result in case-fatality rates of up to 15.6% both during hospitalization and in the time period after discharge, preventing exacerbations or limiting their severity can significantly reduce the impact of COPD.  Remote patient monitoring for COPD sufferers has been proven to be exceptionally effective in avoiding COPD-related medical emergencies.

The Risks of COPD Exacerbation

COPD patients are at a high risk of developing complications. Apart from their increased chance of contracting illnesses such as pneumonia or severe respiratory distress syndrome, they risk experiencing an exacerbation of their condition. These episodes of increased airway and systemic inflammation are most often triggered by respiratory viruses or bacteria and lead to heightened symptoms and physiological changes. 

Diligent treatment and monitoring of COPD patients enable providers to reduce exacerbation frequency and severity. Medications such as inhaled steroids, long-acting bronchodilators, and their combinations help to control the condition. Non-pharmacological therapies such as pulmonary rehabilitation, self-management, and home ventilatory support are also effective. 

Reducing the Impact of COPD 

New frontiers are emerging in the treatment of COPD. According to Megan M. Dulohery Scrodin, M.D. of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, patients with COPD have different phenotypes. Recognition of this fact means treatments can be tailored to the patient if enough information about the patient’s history and habits is available. 

The cornerstone of COPD treatment is selecting suitable inhaler and nebulizer options. Long-acting muscarinic antagonists, long-acting beta-agonists, and inhaled corticosteroid treatments are available in inhaler and nebulizer forms. Azithromycin and roflumilast are available to reduce exacerbating COPD symptoms. However, effective use of these therapies depends heavily on understanding individual patients and monitoring both their adherence and the results. 

Getting Patients Involved

The ongoing shift to shared healthcare decision-making encourages COPD patients to become more involved in their treatment, increasing the opportunity to prevent exacerbation and other complications. Treatment adherence is crucial to avoid hospitalization and the high risk of mortality associated with the condition. 

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) enables providers to keep track of vital indicators such as lung function, which can be monitored daily by the patient using a pulse oximeter, spirometer or other health monitoring device at home. They can track health factors such as patient weight, nutrition status, and physical activity, to identify trends and patterns that help with the early identification and treatment of COPD exacerbation. 

Automated medication reminders help patients to follow the prescribed treatment plan, while answering regular surveys about their symptoms helps providers identify potential exacerbation risks. With remote patient monitoring services that include clinical staff oversight, providers can ensure at-risk patients get rapid intervention, potentially averting a medical emergency or hospitalization.

Benefits to Providers

The benefits of remote patient monitoring for COPD patients are apparent, but what about the advantages for providers? Apart from the ability to reduce COPD exacerbations and improve patients’ quality of life, physicians can accrue real clinical benefits, including:

  • Access to data-driven insights that deliver a good understanding of each patient and their history, enabling them to treat patients as unique individuals.
  • Triage opportunities based on data sorted by AI to identify outliers that need clinical attention. 
  • First-level patient support to address connectivity problems and other minor issues, which frees clinical personnel from handling these events. 
  • Comprehensive reporting, based on patient data transmitted wirelessly to a secure, HIPAA-compliant portal or electronic health record. 
  • Increase profitability due to revenue generation from reimbursement combined with lower staffing costs and reduced use of medical supplies for in-person visits. 

Above all, physicians benefit from enhanced patient satisfaction, and RPM provides COPD sufferers with the confidence that they are on their provider’s radar. Since many physicians earn more based on metrics such as patient satisfaction and outcomes, according to a review by physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins, practices with high patient loyalty can also command higher prices. 

A Serious Disease, but Treatable

For patients, COPD is a terminal illness. For providers, there’s no escaping having to deliver the devastating diagnosis. The caveat is that COPD treatment can help slow the disease’s progression and control the symptoms. Patients who follow their medication regimen and avoid complications can still experience some quality of life. 

Providers can help their patients achieve increased treatment compliance by educating them on how COPD affects daily life and supplying them with health monitoring devices. The deployment of virtual visits and remote patient monitoring services can help physicians achieve the results they want for COPD patients. 

For more information on how our clinically-monitored RPM solutions can help you provide quality care for your COPD patients, please contact us.