Case Management

Sneak peek: Managing COPD to avoid readmissions

Case Management Weekly, September 19, 2012

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex condition that is a major source of readmissions at many hospitals, says Loretta Olsen, RN, MSN, the director of case management at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa in Mason City. COPD is a progressive illness and a major cause of disability and death in the United States. Symptoms of COPD typically worsen over time, and although physicians can't reverse the condition, treatment can help patients live better and longer, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Case managers should focus on enrolling COPD patients in programs that can help them better manage their condition, which can in turn reduce readmissions, says Olsen. 

Encourage patients to participate in pulmonary rehabilitation, which teaches COPD patients to breathe properly while performing different activities to help them avoid problems that can trigger an ED visit. These patients often become short of breath when they exert themselves. This triggers feelings of anxiety, which worsen breathing and often end up necessitating a trip to the hospital. Pulmonary rehabilitation teaches patients how to better cope with their condition by controlling their breathing so they don't experience problems, says Olsen. 

After a hospital visit, COPD patients should receive pulmonary rehabilitation when they return home. This can occur on an outpatient basis. Home healthcare is also important; nurses can ensure that patients take their medications appropriately, which helps control COPD. 

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from an article in the September Case Management Monthly published by HCPro, Inc.

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