Written by: Maliha Safiullah

Maliha Safiullah is a Former Correspondent for 60 Minutes, Channel Nine Australia and is a published writer having worked as a Feature Writer for Dawn News.

With technological advancement in user-friendly wearable devices, AI powered systems, bio-sensors and EHR/PHR digital health has reformed traditional healthcare practices. Utilizing remote patient monitoring devices by healthcare organizations and physicians has substantially improved the quality of care provided to a patient along with significantly reducing the work burden on healthcare staff. With RPM, physicians are in a better position to cater to a larger population and access to real-time data ensures that they are more prompt in assessing, diagnosing and administering medical care to a patient in need. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remote patient monitoring in time of COVID-19 has shown much promise and has demonstrated improved outcomes.

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), as the name suggests, is chronic lung disease that inhibits airflow from the lungs due to inflammation caused by emphysema or chronic bronchitis. While smoking is considered to be the leading cause of COPD, a patient may develop it when exposed to irritants or harmful fumes over a long period of time. In some cases, COPD is also genetic and when not treated in time can result in further complications such as lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension and heart disease.

Unfortunately, COPD symptoms surface after substantial lung damage has already taken place and a patient’s condition, when not properly monitored and treated, only worsens with time. Respiratory breakdown is a cause of intense concern for people suffering from any lung disease, be it asthma or bronchitis and requires a consistent support system that affords them timely relief. Since, COPD develops over a long period of time; the patients suffering from it are usually older adults who require chronic disease care management that is timely administered and provides them with immediate respite.

COPD Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring as a chronic disease management service offers preeminent healthcare solutions to patients suffering from chronic lung diseases. RPM’s function by routinely monitoring a patient’s health that is collected, analyzed and transferred to the relevant physician for feedback and necessary intervention and if an area of concern becomes alarming and the physician discovers incoherence in the data and declares that the patient requires immediate attention, alerts will be sent to designated emergency responders.  A medical emergency team once notified through the alerts will provide immediate assistance to the patient and will make the patient comprehend the situation and educate him/her regarding ways to prevent another similar incident in the future.

When a person with COPD employs the services of RPM, he/she has to use COPD monitoring devices (sensors and wearables) which work by consistently collecting health data. This real-time data is transferred automatically to a cellular device and uploaded to the patient’s PHR. It is accessible to the patient and the healthcare provider to keep track of the patient’s health condition and progress.

Additionally, a COPD patient has access to his/her physician of choice without having to face delays in getting an appointment or waiting in long lines at a clinic since RPM offers easy access through video-conferencing. This platform provides the patient with the comfort of getting the necessary assistance he/she requires while also saving travel costs and time. Through video-conferencing, a physician is also in a position to see multiple patients in a relaxed setting and also have real-time data available to administer the correct treatment effectively.

RPM can be customized to meet each patient’s needs and for COPD patients, a health care professional can create a systematic schedule for routine health measurements. This schedule can be utilized by multiple patients suffering from the same disease and may include meal or supplement reminders, breathing exercise reminders, daily walk or exercise reminders and can aid the physician in setting up an acceptable range for the patients. In case, a patient’s data falls short of the range or an area of concern presents itself, an alert to the physician would be sent and immediate intervention would take place.

With access to real-time data, RPM provides physicians with the opportunity to keep a track on their patient’s health and keep it continually updated so the prescribed medication and treatment ensures that the patient’s health is maintained and even improves with time.

COPD patients are estimated to use up to 10 liters of oxygen in a day, are easily exhausted with even little activity, are constantly anxious and become short of breath while talking. They often suffer from depression and have significantly weak immunity. Difficulty in breathing and the constant fear of respiratory breakdown keeps them from making any effort in activity. This lack of mobility becomes detrimental to their health leading to other complications and they suffer through consistent hospital readmissions. RPM for COPD patients has the potential to not only improve their quality of life but also equips them with ways to manage their health conditions effectively.

Once instructed by the health care provider about the RPM system, the patient is in a position to access educational information relating to his/her condition. This informational material comprising of specific articles along with awareness videos becomes a platform of learning where a patient is better informed about his/her health. It is followed up by questions and queries regarding the patient’s health which he/she then answers and updates for his better understanding. A well-informed patient is able to understand his/her oxygen saturation and identifies if he/she has respiratory distress and any alert according to his/her data is systematically sent to his physician who can then provide relevant help.

Learn how has remote patient monitoring for healthcare been beneficial?

Benefits of  RPM for COPD

RPM has the ability to help patients with COPD to improve the quality of their lives, allowing them to be able to lead an active life where they may speak coherently without running out of breath. It, furthermore, helps patients and healthcare providers by reducing hospital re-admissions and assisting COPD patients to significantly better their life by self-management.

  1. Informed patients who are empowered to look after themselves
  2. Reduced Hospital Re-admissions and need for in-person visits
  3. Improved and timely disease management and treatment
  4. Convenient to use
  5. Real-time data and AI algorithms provide predictability of exacerbations