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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs and causes permanent tissue damage. It is commonly caused by prolonged exposure to irritating gasses or particles, especially cigarette smoke.  

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the world. In the US, the mortality rate for COPD patients is 55% within five years of hospital discharge, and the 30-day readmission rate is 22.6%. The high readmission rate put COPD in Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, encouraging hospitals to improve care coordination and communication with patients and caregivers after discharge. 

 This article explores how patient education through telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) can help reduce hospital readmissions among COPD patients. 

Understanding COPD 

Understanding how the lungs work can give a clearer picture of how COPD develops. Every cell in our body needs oxygen to live. The air that we breathe in through our nose and mouth carries oxygen that passes through the airways to our lungs. Once in the lungs, oxygen is moved to the bloodstream and carried through the body. At each cell in our body, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, which is removed from the bloodstream when we exhale.  

In a healthy lung, the airways are lined by muscles and elastic tissues that pull the airway to keep them open. For COPD patients, the lung tissue is damaged, the airway lining is inflamed and swollen, and there is mucus blocking part of the airway, making it harder for oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass across the airways. 

COPD Symptoms

COPD symptoms develop over time. Patients may not experience any symptoms at first, but as the disease progresses, the symptoms start to worsen. Among the most observed symptoms are: 

  • Shortness of breath  
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Phlegm 
  • Fatigue 
  • Exacerbations in severe cases

COPD Management 

To manage the symptoms, COPD patients can employ the following lifestyle changes and coping techniques: 

  • Quit smoking 

Smoking is one of the major causes of COPD. Therefore, the first step in any treatment plan is to quit smoking. This is important to slow down the progression of the disease. For long-time smokers, quitting cigarettes cold turkey may not be viable, but this is where patient education comes in. With proper knowledge and information, quitting is possible. 

  • Learn proper inhaler technique 

Most medications used to treat COPD comes in inhalers or nebulizers. These inhalers and nebulizers come in different forms and require different techniques. Learning the correct method is critical to ensure that the prescribed amount of medication enters the lungs.  

  • Eat the right food 

Diet and nutrition play a vital role in managing COPD. Eating healthy may not cure the disease, but it will significantly help manage the symptoms. Breathing requires more energy for patients with COPD; therefore, keeping weight in check through healthy eating and nutrition that can fight infections is essential.  

  • Regular monitoring  

COPD patients must be evaluated periodically depending on the severity of the symptoms. Patients who experience severe and frequent exacerbations and patients who were recently discharged from the hospital ideally need daily monitoring of symptoms and vital signs for effective management of the disease. 

Patient Education with Telehealth and RPM 

Telehealth and RPM services give patients the support and knowledge needed to independently manage their health in the comfort of their familiar surroundings.  

Remote monitoring not only helps patients monitor, record, and share their health status with their physicians but also allows doctors to provide condition-specific education to the patients. HRS’ telehealth solution offers an interactive knowledge-sharing platform that includes teach-back quizzes and videos. For COPD patients, this means they can learn proper inhaler techniques and gather nutritional information from the platform.  

Telehealth in Action: George’s Story 

George is a 73-year-old COPD patient who was admitted to Cornerstone VNA in August 2017. He continuously needed 4 liters of oxygen during the day and 5 liters at night to support his breathing. He was frail, quickly exhausted, felt anxious, and was so short of breath that even speaking was an effort.  

Transitioning to Telehealth 

As soon as he was discharged from the hospital, Cornerstone VNA installed HRS’ telehealth unit in George’s home. George faithfully recorded his vital signs, weights, and daily survey questions. On top of that, he fully utilized the educational features in the telehealth unit to understand his disease and learn how he could manage his symptoms. 

Empowered by Education 

As the at-home treatment and patient education progressed, George learned to manage his symptoms better and began to gain more confidence. The best part, he learned how to verbalize his condition and demonstrate his ability to follow the medication regimen and treatment protocols.  

How HRS Can Help Educate and Empower COPD Patients 

HRS facilitates COPD patient education through advanced telehealth and RPM technology. We make educating patients easy through our extensive video library, which includes the following videos for COPD patients:

  • What is COPD?
  • Understanding COPD Flare-Ups
  • COPD: Quit Smoking
  • COPD and Nutrition
  • COPD and Exercise
  • COPD Energy Conservation
  • Coping with COPD
  • Living Well with COPD: Overview
  • Living Well with COPD: Living a Healthy Life
  • Living Well with COPD: Recognizing and Managing Symptoms
  • Belly Breathing
  • Pursed Lip Breathing
From Bluetooth biometric remote monitoring and real-time communication to condition-specific interactive education, HRS’ platform has it all. To learn more about our programs for COPD patients, talk to a digital health specialist today!

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