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New COPD Clinic Could Reduce or Eliminate Hospital Stays

The Internal Medicine Clinics (IMC) has launched a new multidisciplinary clinic for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients that is expected to reduce the admission rates and length of stay for COPD patients at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canada.

Known as the COPD Chronic Disease Management Clinic, this home-grown program combines a number of coordinated services to better manage the health of people living with COPD. The goal of the program is to educate COPD patients about self-managing their disease through monitoring and educational programs.

Included in this is a secure home monitoring system called TeleHomeCare, provided by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). With TeleHomeCare, each day patients are asked to measure their vital signs and answer a series of questions through a device called a Turtle, which is connected to their phone line. A nurse practitioner then reviews the results, looking for early warning signs of a symptom flare-up, so that an intervention can be made before the patient needs hospitalization.

While few studies exist that look at how COPD can be monitored at home, Dr. Zaki Ahmed, Chief of Internal Medicine at Thunder Bay and IMC lead, notes that people with COPD who require recurrent hospital treatment typically experience symptoms three to five days prior to entering the hospital. These symptoms include increased phlegm, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing.

“If we can get to them earlier, we can treat them earlier so they don’t get that bad,” he said in a statement from the hospital. “We try to change personal habits and try to educate [patients], eventually giving them the tools and education to manage their disease themselves.”

As part of the COPD Chronic Disease Management Clinic, IMC also provides support and education for patients, including visits to a respiratory therapist, a nurse practitioner and Dr. Ahmed, as necessary. Dr. Ahmed also notes that because home monitoring can be handled remotely, this program can reach across the entire Northwestern Ontario region.

Programs similar to the COPD Chronic Disease Management Clinic have resulted in patients becoming more involved in their own health and taking positive steps to managing their disease better.

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