News Feature | September 16, 2015

Telemedicine Can Help Alleviate COPD Symptoms

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

CMS Increases Telemedicine Reimbursement

Symptom-tracking app helps COPD patients better control their conditions.

A study published by the journal Telemedicine and e-Health found patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder were able to better control their conditions by using an app for reporting symptoms than those who were directed to seek medical attention if they felt like their condition was deteriorating.

The study, A Telemedicine-Based Intervention Reduces the Frequency and Severity of COPD Exacerbation Symptoms: A Randomized, Controlled Trial” was conducted by researchers at Temple University, including Gerard J. Criner, MD, FACP, FACCP, Founding Chair of the new Department of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at Temple University School of Medicine, and Director of the Temple Lung Center.

Patients with COPD may not recognize worsening symptoms of their conditions that require intensification of therapy or may be reluctant to contact their doctor when they experience slight worsening of their symptoms. The study examined how using a telemedicine application for daily symptom reporting could help reduce these barriers and improve patient outcomes.

While hospitalization and mortality rates were about the same for both the control and study groups, there was a marked improvement over a two-year period in daily peak flow rates and dyspnea only for those using the app. Patients who reported symptoms via the app would receive same-day care recommendations directly from a clinician if the reports indicated that their COPD was worsening.

“Previous studies at other sites have questioned the efficacy of various telemedicine solutions in COPD patients, but those studies have not used a solution that enables same-day treatment in response to worsening patient symptoms,” explained Gerald J. Criner, principal investigator for this study.

“We have been studying digital health solutions for COPD symptom management for over a decade, and are pleased that the improvements we have seen in our patients in response to early identification and intervention has been documented in this clinical study,” Criner added.

Ultimately, the study concluded that, “A telemedicine-based symptom reporting program facilitated early treatment of symptoms and improved lung function and functional status” in patients with COPD.