According to a recent study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch, the majority of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who are treated with oxygen therapy are non-Hispanic white females aged about 75 years, low-income and report two or more health conditions. The new study published in the journal PLOS One is the first research assessing the current use of oxygen therapy among COPD patients in a large, nationally representative sample of COPD patients in the United States.
Oxygen therapy improves survival and quality of life in patents with COPD. In 2008, more than 1.4 million Medicare patients received oxygen therapy at an estimated cost of $2.9 billion, which accounted for more than 45% of Medicare medical equipment expenditure that year. Of these, 82% have a diagnosis of COPD. However, the current COPD population receiving oxygen therapy has changed considerably since then.
In this regard, the team of researchers examined trends and subject characteristics associated with oxygen therapy use from 2001–2010 in the United States. A total of 329,482 Medicare beneficiaries with COPD who received oxygen from 2001 to 2010 were examined.
Results revealed that the use of oxygen therapy increased from 33.7% in 2001 to 40.5% in 2010. Sustained use of oxygen therapy increased from 19.5% in 2001, peaked in 2008 to 26.9% and declined to 18.5% in 2010.
The results also showed that the majority of patients with COPD who received oxygen therapy and sustained oxygen therapy were female. Besides gender, other factors related with any oxygen use or sustained oxygen therapy were low socioeconomic status, non-Hispanic white race, and ≥2 comorbidities.
According to the researchers, the findings showed an increase in oxygen therapy use but a decrease in sustained oxygen therapy in fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries with COPD from 2001 to 2010. In their study the researchers suggest that the decrease in sustained oxygen therapy claims may be due to changes in healthcare policy affecting oxygen reimbursement. Results from the study also indicate that current oxygen users tend to be older females with multiple comorbidities.
“Overall, from 2001 to 2010, we report an increase in oxygen therapy,” said in a recent news release Dr. Shawn Nishi, assistant professor in the internal medicine Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep medicine. “Oxygen use may be increasing because physicians and patients are becoming more aware of the benefits in COPD and there is a decreased perception of oxygen therapy as a stigma.”