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How Virtual Care Helps COPD Patients Recover Post Hospitalization

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems according to the CDC.  The disease translates to a high cost burden for individuals with COPD, their caregivers, and overall healthcare system:

  • Costs attributable to having COPD were $32.1 billion in 2010 with a projected increase to $49.0 billion by 2020. 
  • In 2010, total COPD-related absenteeism costs were $3.9 billion with an estimated 16.4 million days of work lost. 
  • Hospitalizations as a result of exacerbations in COPD account for nearly two-thirds of the total COPD healthcare costs; 1 in 5 patients with AECOPD are readmitted within 30 days of discharge.

In April 2019, UAB’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine published a study on how virtual care can help patients with COPD post-discharge and reduce the risk of costly rehospitalizations.  Surya P. Bhatt, MD, an associate professor at UAB, and his colleagues enrolled selected patients that had been hospitalized for an acute exacerbation of COPD in a 12-week, 36-session virtual care pulmonary rehabilitation program.  Patients were prescribed an exercise routine by an exercise physiologist; the virtual care sessions included breathing and stretching exercises, followed by 20 minutes of aerobic exercises.  As a result, the virtual care program cut 30-day all-cause readmissions by roughly 200 percent during their study, reducing the rate from 18.1 percent to 6.2 percent. 

COPD makes breathing difficult for the almost 16 million Americans who have this disease and home health agencies play a critical role in supporting these patients who have recently been discharged from a hospital following treatment for this disease.  Education, compliance, and stabilization are just some of the goals for home health clinicians when caring for patients with COPD.  With the use of a virtual care communication platform such as Synzi, home health clinicians can conduct virtual visits and schedule a series of ongoing communications via email, text or secure message to:

  • Provide education and motivation for medication compliance
  • Guide at-home exercises with tips and feedback
  • Enable patients to ask questions in real-time
  • Share diet and lifestyle guidance on a regular basis

With the platform, the home health agency administrator can also review each patient’s level of interaction in the communication program.  Based on the data, the compliance messaging can be adjusted to better reach and resonate with the patient if needed.  And, home health clinicians can determine if the patient’s condition is deteriorating and conduct interventions when necessary.

Using a combination of video-based virtual visits and ongoing communications, Synzi’s virtual care platform can help a home health agency reduce the number and length of hospital stays for a patient with COPD, reduce the risk of complications, and stabilize the patient while improving his/her quality of life.

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