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Patient Innovation Pt 4: Pulmonology

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Jessica Shaw

To conclude our four part “Patient Innovation”#rtblogseries, today’s installment will discuss the advancements of RPM within the pulmonology industry. With a particular focus on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we wanted to offer some informative, educational resources for people who suffer from COPD, providers who treat it and any others who want to learn more about how virtual care technologies are playing a major role in innovating new methods of patient management as well as expanding rural access to COPD treatments. 

What Is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung condition that causes patients to have trouble breathing due to clogged airways and excessive mucus buildup. COPD also involves a few other diseases including pneumonia, bronchitis and sometimes even severe cases of asthma (1). While there is no cure for COPD, it is treatable through adopted changes in behavior (no smoking, using supplemental oxygen, taking medications etc) and spirometry, a test that measures patients’ lung capacity. Click here to access the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s action plan that aims to increase awareness and reduce COPD cases worldwide. 

COPD Infographic - CDC

Important COPD Statistics

COPD affects over 16.4 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death by disease worldwide (2). Often referred to as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, COPD is most commonly identified by early symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing (3). It has also been proven that people who smoke or have familial history of lung cancer are at greater risk of developing aggressive cases and that approximately 75% of COPD deaths are related to the harmful effects of cigarette fumes (4). Additionally, research conducted by the American Lung Association showcases that women are more vulnerable to air pollutants because of their smaller sized lungs and the possible effects estrogen may have in worsening conditions of pulmonary diseases (2).  

How COVID Has Impacted COPD Patients

Although the pandemic has affected thousands of patients around the world, it is people with COPD or other underlying lung conditions that have had significant complications due to the nature of the Coronavirus’ impact on the respiratory system. With existing lung damage, COPD patients are less likely to effectively fight off infections and are more likely to contract the virus because of their vulnerability to external contagions (5). In fact, out of 44,672 confirmed cases of COVID, the fatality rate for patients with chronic respiratory diseases was 6.3% (6). Even with these increased risks, the CDC recommends  that COPD patients do not stop taking their medications and continue to safely seek provider treatment. Click here to read a list of commonly asked questions regarding COPD and COVID concerns. 


Remote Patient Monitoring and COPD 

With potential to predict exacerbations (COPD flare ups) and treat epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, remote patient monitoring is especially beneficial for proactively managing patients with COPD (7). Not only do most RPM technologies easily track heart rate and collect vital signs but they also send reminders that prove extremely helpful for patients who require inhalers or daily medications (8). With devices like pulse oximeters, attachable breathing sensors and wristband respiratory trackers, RPM offers the pulmonology industry with opportunities to decrease patients’ dependence on healthcare utilization, promote self care and improve patient engagement as well as streamline disease management(9)(10)(11). 



Want to read the rest of the "Patient Innovation" #rtblogseries?

Part 1: What Is RPM? 

Part 2: Behavioral Health

Part 3: Pain Management

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