Each year around 115,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Although there is currently no cure for COPD, with the right treatment and support patients can control their symptoms and help slow the progression of the disease. At Spirit, our aim is to empower COPD patients to live better for longer.
According to the NHS, however, many people who do have COPD don’t realise they have it. This has created what they call the ‘hidden millions’ phenomenon, which predicts that there are around two million people in the UK experiencing symptoms of COPD but remaining undiagnosed – and therefore not receiving treatment.
People with COPD usually experience breathlessness along with persistent coughing, which gradually worsens over time. This can limit their everyday activity. Eventually they can suffer exacerbations, sometimes called ‘flare ups’, that require medical attention or even hospitalisation.
Melanie Martin, Clinical Advisor at NHSX, observes that many patients with long-term conditions aren’t being seen when they need to be. Often, “there is a missed opportunity to capture disease flares”. With the traditional outpatient model of timed follow-up appointments there is a lack of this kind of data being captured, and this model also leads to patients being seen when they don’t need to be.
To tackle this inflexibility of traditional routes of care, we can turn to remote monitoring. As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technology across healthcare services, remote monitoring has quickly established itself as an effective solution for continuity of care and capturing data.
Here are six ways we found remote monitoring can support COPD patients, during and beyond the pandemic:
Remote monitoring offers patients much more flexible care, enabling them to monitor their symptoms from home instead of having to go to their local surgery or hospital for routine appointments. This is especially handy for people living in remote areas who struggle to access health facilities. In a recent study this year, Mobiquity found that 50% of patients aged over 55 in the UK had a ‘better experience’ with remote monitoring than in-person consultations due to quicker access.
Keeping patients out of hospital
Our remote monitoring platform, CliniTouch Vie, collects real-time data (such as soft sign questions and blood oxygen levels) from patients, which clinicians can view and monitor for any signs of early deterioration. Our algorithms automatically triage patients as red, amber or green, so clinicians can ensure they’re seeing the right patients at the right time. For patients with COPD, regular monitoring enables clinical teams to identify the early warning signs of an exacerbation sooner and intervene, reducing the likelihood of it resulting in an unscheduled emergency admission.
In a study we carried out alongside the Leicester Partnership NHS Trust to test CliniTouch Vie’s efficiency as a telehealth intervention, we found it led to a net reduction of 63.6% in patient hospital admissions over a 222-day period.
Empowering patients with air quality data
CliniTouch Vie users living with COPD can check via the dashboard if the air quality in their area is good or poor, reducing the risk of an environmentally induced exacerbation. With real-time satellite-based data supplied by EarthSense, patients can clearly see when and where the air quality might affect them. This helps them to understand potential triggers and provides them with the confidence to make informed lifestyle decisions.
Personalised question sets for personalised care
Our COPD question set is tailored to help clinical teams build a full picture of their patient’s health. With questions relating to breathlessness, energy levels and coughing, the platform also records vital sign measurements relevant to their condition. Clinicians have all the data they need in real-time, enabling them to easily spot signs of deterioration and intervene accordingly.
Virtual pulmonary rehabilitation programme
Pulmonary rehabilitation programmes are known to improve patients’ quality of life, help them to self-manage their condition and make progress with their physical activity – so it’s no surprise that pulmonary rehabilitation is a key intervention in the NHS Long Term Plan.
In a 2017 study by the Royal College of Physicians, 90% of COPD patients who completed a pulmonary rehabilitation programme experienced ‘improved exercise capacity or increased quality of life’, but with the pandemic bringing traditional face-to-face programmes to a grinding halt, we can turn to digital technology to help patients still access some of the benefits of the programme.
Using our CliniTouch Vie platform, clinical teams can offer an 8-week virtual pulmonary rehabilitation programme, delivered entirely remotely. Featuring inhaler training, education and exercise tutorials for COPD patients, the platform helps patients lead a healthier lifestyle and exercise safely, while boosting their knowledge with health expert Q&As and webinars. By delivering this programme digitally, we can improve accessibility and support patients both during the pandemic and beyond.
Through our remote monitoring platform, clinicians can quickly and easily communicate with their patients using messaging or video call functionality. With one of the main complications of COPD being depression, this feeling of connectivity can provide some much-needed reassurance to patients that help is always on hand.
It is quite evident that people living with COPD have a lot to benefit from using remote care. It maintains that channel of communication between clinician and patient that is so important, while offering greater flexibility to patients to monitor and manage their condition from home.
What’s more, it enables COPD patients to access their own health trend data, educational resources, support, and expert guidance that is, quite literally, at their fingertips.
 The British Lung Foundation, ‘Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) statistics’ from The battle for breath report, 2016. Available online at: https://statistics.blf.org.uk/copd (date accessed 25/10/2021).
 Melanie Martin, ‘The role of remote monitoring in the future of the NHS,’ on the NHSX website. Available at: https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/blogs/role-remote-monitoring-future-nhs/ (date accessed: 30/09/2021).
 Mobiquity, ‘COVID-19: Ensuring a quality patient experience with the rise of digitisation in a healthcare setting,’ 2021. Available online: COVID-19 Research Study: Digital Health Report 2021 (mobiquity.com) (date accessed 07/10/2021).
 Sudip Ghosh et al., ‘A cost saving intervention for patients with severe breathlessness’ in British Journal of Healthcare Management, 2018, p. 3
 ‘Pulmonary rehabilitation’ on NHS England website. Available online at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/clinical-policy/respiratory-disease/pulmonary-rehabilitation/ (date accessed: 29/09/2021)
 ‘Chapter 3: Further progress on care quality and outcomes’ in the NHS Long Term Plan, 2019. Available online at: https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/chapter-3-further-progress-on-care-quality-and-outcomes/better-care-for-major-health-conditions/respiratory-disease/ (date accessed: 30/09/2021)
 Mayo Clinic Staff, ‘COPD’ on the Mayo Clinic website. Available online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/symptoms-causes/syc-20353679 (date accessed 30/09/2021).