Reducing the Burden of COPD through Remote Patient Monitoring

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death globally, affecting 3.23 million deaths in 2019. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, patients with COPD are among the high-risk, vulnerable group since acquiring infections predisposes acute exacerbations of COPD. Can remote patient monitoring help reduce the burden of COPD?

What is COPD?

According to WHO, COPD refers to airflow limitation in and out of the lungs. As a result, COPD can be sometimes called “emphysema” or “chronic bronchitis.” Emphysema usually refers to the destruction of the tiny air sacs at the end of the airways in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis refers to chronic cough with the production of phlegm resulting from inflammation in the airways. 

What causes COPD?

Tobacco smoke is a crucial factor in the progression of COPD. Other causes include exposure to air pollutants, chronic exposure to dust and chemicals, and chronic respiratory diseases such as bronchitis or emphysema. 

The difficulty of breathing and increased tiredness, and chronic cough impacts daily activities and become a burden. Some would need different treatment, and some would require admission to treat life-threatening symptoms. “Exacerbations” are acute events among COPD patients that have multiple triggers. Infection is a pivotal cause of acute exacerbation. Therefore, health care providers should treat it promptly since exacerbations occur more frequently with disease progression and are associated with worse outcomes and increased morbidity. 

Remote patient monitoring in COPD patients

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) paves the way to transforming traditional care by providing health care access at home. Many studies prove the effectiveness of RPM in decreasing hospital readmissions, ER visits and even improving medication adherence. In a 2021 survey by MSI International, about four of every five consumers favor RPM, especially monitoring chronic diseases. In addition, almost half of the respondents want to see remote patient monitoring integrated with clinical care services. As a result, the number of patients implementing remote patient monitoring will increase to 30 million by 2024—marking a 28.2% growth from 23.4 million patients in 2020.

Recent studies support the feasibility of remote patient monitoring in improving health-related quality of life and reducing COPD-related costs among patients with COPD. While further studies are still needed to emphasize RPM’s standardization and enhance the predictability of exacerbations, current evidence shows that spirometry, the use of short-acting inhalers, and a decrease in oxygen saturation are among the positive determinants of exacerbations assessed in remote monitoring. 

Other ways to decrease COPD burden include the following:

1. Stop smoking

Quitting smoking is the most effective strategy for slowing down COPD progression. In a 2015 study, smoking cessation reduces mortality in approximately 50% of patients with diagnosed COPD who continue to smoke. In addition, the combination of advising patients through counseling and pharmacotherapy is more effective than either alone.

Related: What Happens When You Quit Smoking?

2. Take regular exercise

Exercise improves blood circulation and enables the heart to send oxygen to the body. According to American Lung Association, exercise can improve energy levels, sleep, cardiovascular fitness, and muscle strength. Exercise strengthens respiratory muscles, minimizing shortness of breath among COPD patients.

3. Get vaccinated against pneumonia, influenza, and coronavirus

The leading causes of COPD exacerbations are respiratory infections that have long-term harmful effects on patients’ lungs. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should be given the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and influenza vaccines to decrease the risk of exacerbations. COVID-19 patients with COPD demonstrate the same increased chances of being hospitalized, requiring ICU admission, and mortality compared to COVID-19 patients who do not have COPD. Hence, encouraging patients to get vaccinated against coronavirus reduces the risk of infections.

The best method to improve patient engagement is to empower patients of their health. Educating patients about improving and promoting a healthier lifestyle and consistent checkups to adhere to medications determines success in implementing remote monitoring. 

Takeaway

Remote patient monitoring is feasible in reducing the COPD burden by preventing acute exacerbations and improving medication adherence. Future development should assess clinical outcomes for prolonged periods of continuous monitoring among wearable devices. In addition, by implementing an effective care model that combines remote patient monitoring with patient education, providers will help recognize barriers to healthcare and enhance communication, which may lead to earlier intervention and treatment.

About DrKumo® Inc. 

DrKumo is a technology leader in massively scalable, continuous, real-time Remote Patient Monitoring solution for Chronic Disease Management, Acute Care, Post-Operation, and Hospital Care at Home. 

It solves the most painful problems in healthcare with a user-friendly solution powered by its state-of-the-art, HIPAA-compliant, mobile-enabled, continuous real-time monitoring, and AI/ML engine. Then company’s Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) technology enables patients to manage their health conditions in the comfort of their homes and supports healthcare providers with real-time intelligence for timely intervention. DrKumo revolutionizes the way people access quality health care across the world. With a culture that is innovative, collaborative, and technology-driven, DrKumo provides the most effective solutions to both patients and healthcare providers.

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