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11-11-2009 | Respiratory | Article

Telemedicine benefits COPD patients

Abstract

Meeting website

MedWire News: A telemedicine program helps reduce hospital visits for exacerbations among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), US research shows.

Speaking at Chest 2009 in San Diego, California, USA, Toby Smith (Overton Brooks Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Shreveport, Loiusiana) explained that “exacerbations of COPD were responsible for nearly 10 million urgent [hospital] visits in 2000 and cost an estimated $16 billion (€10.6 billion) in the United States each year.”

He added: “Telemedicine, introduced to help manage chronic diseases, has been shown to reduce healthcare utilization in diabetes, congestive heart failure, and psychiatric disorders, [but] less is known about its utility in COPD management.”

To investigate, the researchers studied data on the first 100 patients with advance COPD who were assigned to a telemedicine program at their center. The program included the use of an in-home electronic device that transmitted health information about the patient to a registered nurse. Any subsequent interventions were at the discretion of physicians.

The team compared the number of exacerbations in the year before enrollment with that in the first year of enrollment in the program. Exacerbations were defined by unscheduled hospital visits for COPD symptoms.

Overall, the participants made an average of 0.14 fewer unscheduled hospital visits in the year after enrollment compared with beforehand, equating to a 14.6% relative reduction in exacerbations.

Among the 22 participants with at least two exacerbations in the pre-enrollment period, the number of unscheduled hospital visits fell from an average of 3.59 visits in the year before enrollment to 1.95 visits in the year after enrollment – a relative reduction of 46%.

Smith concluded: “Enrollment in this particular telemedicine program was associated with a reduction in unscheduled healthcare utilization for COPD, especially among those who had previously experienced frequent COPD exacerbations.”

He added: “Our experience would suggest that automated telemedicine programs are useful in the management of advanced COPD and may reduce the cost, both personal and monetary, of this disease.”

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Mark Cowen

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