A recently released study out of the Temple Lung Center led by director, Gerald Criner MD, revealed that COPD patients who used a digital health application had improved symptoms and a lesser number of exacerbations of their disease process. The study will be published in the February 2016 issue of Telemedicine and E-Health.
The idea behind the digital app study was to have COPD patients report changes in breathing symptoms as well as tangible evidence of their COPD condition using peak flow meter results sent to the researchers. A computer then calculated changes in COPD symptoms, identifying patients who were deviating from their baseline COPD status. Those with a significant deviation from their norm were referred to their healthcare provider, who made immediate changes over the phone in the patient’s COPD regimen to be implemented the same day that the decline in function occurred.
COPD is a chronic lung disease associated with airway dysfunction as evidenced by cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and the production of excessive amounts of sputum or phlegm in the airways of the lung. While most of the time, the individual is at his or her baseline, flareups can occur that result in worsened symptoms and possible hospitalization. The digital health application was designed to identify changes in status early enough to prevent a flareup of the disease. Those with undetected flareups have a higher incidence of prolonged hospitalization and mortality from COPD.
The researchers believed that by making immediate changes in the treatment of COPD in patients at the beginning of their exacerbation, trips to the hospital emergency department, hospitalizations and decreased quality of life could be thwarted.
While other studies looked at using digital apps to identify changes in the COPD disease pattern, this was the first study in which changes were made to the treatment of the participant’s COPD regimen on the same day that the changes were reported. The compliance with this type of intervention was high, with most study participants send in their data every day.
The researchers admitted that the number of study subjects was too small to see if there were improvements in mortality and a decrease in the number if days spent in the hospital while using the digital application but studies are now underway with larger numbers of participants to see if this type of technology improves these parameters as well. Certainly, the study showed that there was a step in the right direction for study participants with COPD who followed the app instructions in this research study.
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