There are over 1.5 million people diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). As if this statistic wasn’t alarming enough, studies show there may be another 1.6 million who have COPD but are undiagnosed. In many cases, COPD is caused by smoking and can result in symptoms such as a shortness of breath, mucus production, and wheezing. People who are diagnosed with COPD may be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and other conditions. These symptoms can often cause anxiety and panic when the patient finds themselves suddenly struggling to breathe. In many cases, they may feel that it is necessary to go straight to the emergency room for help. Fortunately, as a professional care provider, there are many mobile apps you can set your COPD patients up with to help them stay on track with their fitness, educate themselves on their condition, and prevent emergency room visits. This blog details four ways someone with this condition could benefit from using a digital solution.
A sense of comfort and control
It may sound strange to say that a software tool can help relieve anxiety, but finding the right mobile app to help ease the concerns of your patient with COPD is essential. Since patients may panic if they suddenly feel symptoms like shortness of breath, having the ability to easily call an emergency contact may avoid a hospital admission. An emergency contact doesn’t necessarily have to be 911 – it could be anyone managing their care from a physician to a family member. The caregiver can then take the appropriate steps to help the patient so that an emergency room visit is not needed. Because COPD typically becomes most serious in older adults, they may not have the same tech-savvy abilities that younger people with disease do. In this case, it is especially relieving to know that they could call a medical professional or a family member with just the touch of a button. As a professional caregiver, it also gives you comfort knowing your patients can easily reach you and you can reassure them with something as simple as a quick video call. Of course, you will have the ability to set your availability so that patients cannot reach you when you are offline or unavailable.
Track their condition remotely
Some healthcare apps allow for integration with home health devices. This means that once your patient is set up with the proper COPD monitoring equipment, they can continue to -monitor their condition from home. They could benefit from an app that can connect with a pulse oximeter to quickly check their oxygen levels. This allows them to be aware of how they are progressing or if they require any help. It also makes it easier for everyone involved in their care as it could save the patient a visit to the doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic, or even the emergency room. Caregivers should also search for an app that will allow for automated workflows. This will simplify their role and enable them to provide more efficient care. For example, you could set up a process where a scheduled reminder will pop up on the patients tablet asking them to rate their breathlessness on a scale of 1 to 10. If the answer is lower than a pre-set value, a follow-up reminder will show up. This will direct them on the next steps, such as taking a specific medication.
Step in if necessary
As previously mentioned, through the use of a mobile healthcare app, physicians are able to track the patient’s condition without having to meet with them in person. This encourages patients to be more engaged with their care, but also allows for physicians to take note of any concerning patterns and intervene if required. Since the patients will learn how to self-manage more effectively with this approach, healthcare professionals will only have to step in when necessary. An app that provides the patient with the ability to make video calls, send photos, or send secure text messages can let caregivers know when someone actually needs help. It could also have the ability to assign urgency contacts in the case of the patient being in an emergency situation. Some apps will allow for a notification system so that if the primary urgency contact is not available, the second will be called, and so on.
Allow everyone to stay updated on a patient’s condition
Finding a secure app that allows multiple people to be connected on one platform can put everyone’s minds at ease. Sometimes family members will feel left out if they’re not updated on their loved one’s appointments, changes to medication, and any other new information regarding their health. This way, the family can simply download the app and have access to any updates in new information. Physicians can also use it for the same purpose. It is common for patients with COPD to have a larger healthcare team than those without it. This could include a physician, a dietician, a respiratory therapist, and more. Similar to the patient’s families, the healthcare team can all update each other securely and in real-time. This avoids potential complications and the confusion that a lack of communication can have.
Fortunately, there are apps out there that can serve all of these purposes. aTouchAway by Aetonix allows for scheduled reminders, video and audio calls, and Care Plan updates. It is already being used by many hospitals in Canada with some focusing specifically on helping patients manage COPD at home. Telehealth and mobile apps have already proven to reduce readmission rates and are growing at a rate of 30% per year in Ontario alone. If you are a physician or someone providing care to someone with COPD, you should definitely talk with them and their other healthcare providers to see if digital health tools are a good option for them.
Featured image courtesy of VideoHive