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Can Remote Monitoring Keep COPD Patients Out of the Hospital?

A PCORI-funded study will examine whether telehealth can help minority patients diagnosed with COPD who have difficulty accessing rehab care.

By Eric Wicklund

- A New York-New Jersey health system is using a $1.5 million federal grant to study whether a remote monitoring program can boost outcomes for Hispanic patients diagnosed with COPD.

The grant, issued by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, will be used to determine whether a home-based pulmonary rehabilitation program can meet the needs of an underserved population which might not be able to access treatment at a hospital or clinic.

“Rehospitalization is a huge burden for COPD patients and their families,” Negin Hajizadeh, MD, a physician with the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at North Shore University Hospital, told a local news site. “We want to find a way to bring a therapy we know works - pulmonary rehabilitation -  to COPD patients who are most in need.”

Hajizadeh and Renee Pekmazaris, MD, Northwell Health’s vice president of community health and health services research, are recruiting 276 Hispanic residents diagnosed with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Half will receive standard follow-up care at a hospital, and the other half will be equipped with an exercise bike and tablet for online sessions with a Spanish-speaking respiratory therapist.

“There is a great disparity in the services that are offered and utilized by Hispanic patients with COPD,” said Pekmezaris, who, like Hajizadeh, an associate professor of medicine at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “It is difficult for Hispanic patients to gain access to pulmonary rehabilitation, which has shown to be critical for strengthening breathing muscles, learning how to manage the disease and enhancing quality of life.”

Telehealth experts say the study will help determine whether a remote patient monitoring program can replace traditional rehab services, improve patients’ clinical outcomes and reduce costs associated with medical interventions and hospitalizations.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania-based Capital Blue Cross reported that a year-long RPM pilot focusing on patient with heart failure saved more than $8,000 per patient and reduced hospitalizations by more than 30 percent.

Following a 2014 Kaiser Permanente study that indicated COPD patients who exercised regularly reduced their chances of rehospitalization by some 34 percent, health systems have taken a liking to mHealth and telehealth platforms as a means of connecting with those patients at home.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is interested as well – COPD is among the handful of chronic conditions included in a value-based insurance design program launching next year that allows health plans to include telehealth consults with physicians in their supplemental benefits.

Dig Deeper:

New Apps Target Care Coordination for COPD Patients

New Remote Monitoring Collaboration Targets Cystic Fibrosis


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