12 AADDVVAANNCCEE FFOORR RREESSPPIIRRAATTOORRYY CCAARREE && SSLLEEEEPP MMEEDDIICCIINNEE VPAUELsMONARY FUNCTION JANUARY 2017 The American College of Chest Physicians estimates that the economic burden associated with treating COPD will reach $50 billion by 2020. Similar to how the healthcare industry has tackled diabetes and other chronic health conditions, earlier detection during routine check-ups are critical to fighting this disease. Screenings can identify COPD before a major loss of lung function occurs, but most people are still diagnosed in a lung function lab. This testing often comes too late in the game when significant irreversible lung damage has already occurred. MOVING TESTING BEYOND THE LUNG FUNCTION LAB Despite simplified and cost-effective tools that facilitate the diagnosis of COPD such as spirometry used by doctors in the primary care setting, there is still low adoption and underutilization of these solutions. Today, most patients showing signs of lung disease or already experiencing symptoms — meaning that the disease may have progressed to late-stage COPD — are usually sent to lung function laboratories. Today’s conventional lab equipment requires specialized personnel who are primarily trained to maintain the equipment and to coach patients through a series of tests — not to provide the level of care and attention that a patient would receive from their primary care physician (PCP). While it’s critical to adapt lung function testing in primary care settings, it is important to note that these simplified tools are an extension to the lung function labs rather than a replacement. Many lung function labs are overwhelmed, incredibly busy and primarily focus on maintaining the equipment rather than ongoing patient care. With easy-to-use tools, respiratory therapists will have access to mobile and effective tools that require minimal training, which will enable them to focus more on the well-being of the patient. Extending care also has operational benefits — lung function laboratories have high running costs and are only available in larger hospitals. It often takes weeks to get an appointment, which creates additional barriers for the earlier detection of lung disease. If the healthcare industry continues to rely on the current approach — which is solely built around conventional lab equipment being the standard of care — lung disease diagnosis will continue to lag behind, with many hospitals not utilizing new technologies available today that provide earlier and more accurate detection. CHANGING THE STANDARD OF CARE With millions of people suffering from COPD, the healthcare industry must bring reliable lung function testing to more respiratory therapists and to PCPs, which will help more people receive therapy and management at the point of care. When people visit their therapist, a specialist or doctor, a lung function test should be as standard as taking a person’s blood pressure and temperature. Spirometers are the simplest lung function test that can be done anywhere, from an emergency department to a home care setting. The Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines recommend spirometry as one of the primary tools to establish a COPD diagnosis in patients with a historic cough, difficulty breathing While it’s critical to adapt lung function testing in primary care settings, it is important to note that these simplified tools are an extension to the lung function labs rather than a replacement.” RELATED CONTENT Technology Use in COPD Management Better communication and adherence are among the benefits.
Advance for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine • January 2017
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