Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, commonly known as COPD, refers to a group of respiratory diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing problems in affected patients. While COPD is a chronic, gradually progressing lung disease that is not entirely curable, there are several effective options to help patients manage and treat this illness. As technology, medicine, and methods for chronic disease management have advanced dramatically over the last decade, the ways in which healthcare providers can help COPD patients improve outcomes and their overall quality of life are continuously expanding.
Steps to Effectively Manage and Treat COPD in Patients
Treatment and continuous monitoring are essential when it comes to managing COPD. By effectively treating COPD in the early stages of advancement, patients can typically see improvements in their breathing, reduce coughing, and slow the progression of this disease. While there are a number of things patients can do themselves to reduce symptoms significantly, such as quitting smoking and making healthier lifestyle choices, healthcare providers can further improve health outcomes for patients by providing suitable treatment options. Here, we will provide information on the steps healthcare providers can take to effectively manage patients with COPD and discuss their benefits.
Provide COPD Patients With Educational Resources
There are several programs available to patients living with COPD which provide educational resources. These programs help patients manage aspects of their disease themselves and are vital in building a connection with their healthcare providers. Educational resources can include information about quitting smoking, avoiding triggers such as fumes or particles that can be inhaled, medications to keep on hand, breathing techniques, and much more.
Studies show that there are distinct benefits to providing patients with educational resources. In a study done by Elsevier Science Ireland where patients were provided educational resources about COPD self-management, the need for general practitioner visits was reduced by 85%, and the need for reliever medication was also reduced.
Assess Patients’ Symptoms and Progress Regularly
Healthcare providers must be regularly updated on COPD patients’ symptoms to identify concerning changes and track improvements. To do so, patients may choose to schedule in-person checkups or meet with their providers virtually. In either case, patients must be equipped with the right tools and knowledge to identify changing symptoms and know when to report them.
By providing patients with an at-home monitoring device, healthcare providers can track symptoms in real-time and reduce the need for in-person visits at their clinic or facility. Solutions such as Aetonix’s aTouchAway Platform can help connect providers with patients to monitor their condition and adjust their care plans accordingly. In connecting this way, patients can take action towards managing their symptoms in very little time, thus reducing the progression of their respiratory illness and the need for hospitalizations or in-person checkups.
Ensure Patients Are Regularly Checking In if Their Symptoms Worsen
COPD symptoms may worsen or become more severe intermittently. This is known as an exacerbation or “flare-up” and should be addressed by patients and healthcare providers promptly. In many cases, warning signs are present and can include excessive coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, feeling tired for more than one day, trouble sleeping, and more.
By having patients continuously monitor their symptoms, they are more likely to recognize a flare-up before it worsens, and can inform their healthcare provider so that the appropriate measures can be taken. Fortunately, there are several ways patients can go about sharing their symptoms, one of which being remote patient monitoring.
Remote patient monitoring is one of the efficient ways of receiving patient updates as it allows providers to stay up-to-date on changing symptoms without the need for in-person visits. With this method, providers can instruct patients to input their symptoms on their remote monitoring platform as soon as they occur. This can give providers instant notifications for any concerning changes, and allows them to quickly respond to their patients’ needs.
Coordinate Effective Support for Patients
Some COPD patients’ health conditions make travelling to in-person appointments inconvenient. Additionally, many patients live in remote communities or are located far away from loved ones or healthcare providers. This can bring challenges such as difficulties travelling to and from medical appointments and feelings of isolation.
A critical factor in successfully treating and managing COPD in patients is providing them with a robust support system. Virtual care pathways are one method that can be used to help patients keep in touch with their healthcare providers, families, and other members who can help improve patient support. On platforms such as aTouchAway, patients and authorized members can view a snapshot of their care journey, remotely coordinate care, and communicate effectively through messaging and video features. This helps patients connect in a more convenient way, and reduces the need for unnecessary hospitalizations or in-person visits.
Benefits of Properly Treating and Managing COPD
Effective treatment and management of COPD can significantly enrich the lives of patients and their loved ones. Patients can improve their quality of life by breathing better, having more energy to do things they love, and slowing the progression of the disease.
Proper treatment of COPD in patients can also have positive effects on health care systems. Hospitalizations cost the Canadian healthcare system $68 Billion yearly, a number that is expected to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As patients are able to gain more control over their symptoms and avoid problematic flare-ups, hospitalizations decrease which results in less funds needed to support these visits.
Consequences of Inadequate COPD Treatment and Management
If COPD is not managed or treated properly, a patient’s symptoms will likely worsen over time. This can lead to several health issues that can negatively impact their quality of life, including extreme difficulty breathing, trouble doing daily activities, increased fatigue, and more. Inadequate treatment also increases the likelihood of hospitalizations and in-person checkups that are burdensome to patients.
Healthcare inefficiencies can also occur if chronic diseases such as COPD are not treated and managed effectively. These inefficiencies can lead to a number of consequences including facilities not having adequate resources to treat patients, excessive workloads for physicians and other medical personnel, and other issues that put a strain on healthcare practices.
Improving Treatment and Management for COPD Patients
Effectively treating and managing COPD as a patient requires lifelong chronic disease management. By providing patients with the right resources and knowledge, medication, and encouraging acts of self-management, healthcare providers can have a tremendous impact on their patients’ success.
As more research is conducted and treatment options continue to expand for patients living with COPD, it is likely health outcomes for those living with this disease will continue to improve over time with the right care.
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