A team of researchers at the Pulmonology Institute of Soroka and Ben-Gurion University Medical Center in Israel recently published a study that suggests the risk for hospital readmission due to COPD exacerbation triples if a follow-up consultation with a pulmonologist is overlooked. The study is titled, “The Association Between Hospital Readmission and Pulmonologist Follow-up Visits in Patients With COPD” and is currently available in the journal CHEST.
Statistics show that 500,000 annual hospital admissions in the United states are COPD-related, accounting for $10 billion in annual direct healthcare costs. It is estimated that over 50% of COPD patients admitted to the hospital due to an exacerbation of their condition will experience readmission at least once within one year of discharge, 14% within the first month, and 7% within 3 months.
The investigators noted that where patients lived played a key role in compliance with follow-up appointments, as those who resided over 18 miles from the pulmonologist’s clinic were less likely to make their appointment. A higher number of hospitalizations experienced in the past year also lowered the likelihood of attending a follow-up appointment. The only factors that were noted to motivate patients in keeping with follow-up appointments were written recommendations attached to discharge letters, and prehospital admission visits with the pulmonologist.
“The potential impact of this study on reducing the admission rate of patients with common respiratory diseases is high. Advising a patient to visit a chest physician after discharge may save the next admission and reduce the morbidity burden of this serious disease,” said Nimrod Maimon, MD, Department of Medicine and the Pulmonology Institute of Soroka and Ben-Gurion University Medical Center and study author.
Recent trends in U.S. healthcare are challenging hospitals to cut down on readmissions for people with diseases such as COPD in order to cut costs. Improved outpatient programs to curtain COPD exacerbations could not only make a major difference in patient quality of life, but also in healthcare expenditures on the disease.
In other COPD-related news, a new study entitled “Aclidinium bromide and formoterol fumarate as a fixed-dose combination in COPD: pooled analysis of symptoms and exacerbations from two six-month, multicentre, randomized studies (ACLIFORM and AUGMENT),” the authors determined the effects of combined aclidinium/formoterol therapy in reducing moderate to severe COPD patients’ symptoms and exacerbation rates. The study was published in the journal Respiratory Research.
Therapy with aclidinium bromide, a long-acting anticholinergic (anticholinergic agents work by inhibiting acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, and thus controlling the involuntary movement of nerves’ cells, in this case, in the lungs), combined with formoterol fumarate, a long-acting β2- agonist, was shown to improve COPD patients’ lung function. It is currently standard treatment in Europe as a maintenance treatment; however, its impact on COPD symptoms and exacerbations remains unknown.