Digital monitoring helps reduce hospital visits for COPD patients
Electronic inhaler monitoring has helped significantly reduce hospital visits for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a new study from the Cleveland Clinic medical center and Propeller Health.
Propeller Health provided the monitoring platform, which connected a small sensor to 39 patients’ existing inhaled COPD medication, and a Cleveland Clinic research team studied the results over the course of a year to determine how the platform affected the utilization of patients’ healthcare services.
Use of the sensor helped pushed the average number of COPD-related hospital trips down to an average of 2.2, compared to the year prior to enrollment when the average was 3.4 trips to the hospital.
WHY IT MATTERS
The sensor is able to deliver alerts and insights on medication adherence and usage trends to the patient’s smartphone. These alerts were later emailed to the research team, providing insights on patients’ rescue and controller medication use.
“We prescribe inhaled medications for patients with COPD all the time. It’s really the cornerstone of their therapy, and when they return to the clinic we do ask them whether they’re using their medications, but the reality is we never know how adherent patients are objectively,” Dr. Umur Hatipoğlu, a Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist, said in a statement. “Electronic inhaler monitoring allows us to assess inhaler adherence at the point of care.”
Incorporating digital medicine data broadly into clinical practice has the potential to relieve the burden on patients to recall every instance of medication. A paper on the study, published in May in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, also found patients felt the devices were easy to use.
Previous studies have also shown digital health interventions improve asthma control and improve adherence to controller medications, in particular electronic inhaler monitoring technology, which allows the assessment of adherence to inhaler therapy.
ON THE RECORD
“With COPD predicted to become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, the need for digital health tools to reduce COPD exacerbations and hospitalizations has never been more urgent,” Propeller CEO David Van Sickle said in a statement. “This study shows not only that digital health can decrease healthcare utilization for COPD, but also that patients find the tools easy to use and they can be readily adopted in today’s clinical setting.”
THE LARGER TREND
The Cleveland Clinic trial follows a December 2018 study by health system Dignity Health and Propeller, which indicated asthma-related emergency room visits declined by more than half for people who used connected, digital medicine to manage their disease.
The observational study found for Dignity Health patients using Propeller’s wireless inhalers to manage their asthma, their asthma-related emergency room visits decreased by 54 percent compared to the previous year, while combined asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations decreased by 57 percent compared to the previous year.
Another study by Propeller, conducted in October 2018 in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado, suggests clinical guidelines for assessing asthma control may need to be updated to reflect objective patient information obtained from digital medicines.
Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
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