COPD Symptom Tracking Through New Online Platform Shows Promising Results

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by Marta Silva |

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease characterized by progressive breathlessness, acute exacerbations, increased coughing, mucus, and a feeling of tightness in patients’ chest. Usually if the exacerbation symptoms are not detected and treated on time, they can escalate, leading to a more acute scenario, which can diminish quality of life. According with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, COPD was the third leading cause of death in the USA in 2013.

By tracking COPD patients’ conditions daily through an online health application and providing specific recommendations from their healthcare providers, the manifestation of the disease’s symptoms reduced, showing an improvement in daily symptoms, lung function and activity status. This study was conducted by 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 in the Pennsylvania Study of COPD Exacerbations (PA-SCOPE). The study is expected to be published in February, 2016.

This new online COPD application compiles COPD patients’ respiratory symptoms and records expiratory peak flow measurements. Each symptom is processed by an algorithm that associates a score to each symptom and then is compared with the initial symptoms’ values. This way, it is possible to determine a symptom’s deviation curve through which patients and healthcare teams can have a concrete perception on how serious the symptoms are by comparing the patients’ baseline metrics. Each value in excess of a predetermined threshold was reviewed and tracked by a nurse and a doctor, which would prescribe a specific treatment according to the individual patient’s needs. This allowed to improve agility in the response given to the symptoms and it enabled healthcare providers to initiate treatments that were optimized for each individual patient’s symptoms in the same day that COPD symptoms became worse. Dr. Criner noted that this was possible due to “the properties of the study which  enabled same-day treatment in response to worsening patient symptoms.”

The high rate of daily symptom reporting showed a significant degree of reporting compliance by moderate to severe COPD patients who used the digital application, which was extremely positive. One of the bottlenecks of the study was the ability of enrolling enough patients to show significant mortality benefit or reduction in hospitalization days prior to the end of study. Nevertheless, results were encouraging, pointing to the predicted direction.

“Future studies are needed with greater numbers of patients enrolled to be able to address that outcome, and additional research is already underway with that aim,” says Francis Cordova, MD, Medical Director of the Lung Transplantation Program at Temple University Hospital, and lead author on the study.

The technology used in the study is a precursor to the solution currently offered by Temple University’s spin-off company HGE Health Care Solutions.