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COPD-specific clinics might mean fewer ER visits

A clinic specifically designed to educate, manage and treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease means fewer emergency room visits for patients, according to a new study.

The University of Texas Medical Branch has two COPD-specific clinics, and researchers studied data comparing patients with COPD managed at COPD-specific clinics to other patients with COPD who saw primary care providers instead. UTMB researchers examined four years’ worth of data and found that patients who went to a COPD-specific clinic had fewer emergency room visits and fewer stays in the hospital than the patients with COPD who went to a primary care clinic, said Dr. Alex Duarte, one of the authors of a recently published study.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic lung condition and can include emphysema or chronic bronchitis. It’s the type of disease that doctors treat in outpatient clinics.

“We looked at how often patients were seen in clinic as well as their medications prescribed and disease severity, their age and smoking status,” Duarte said. “And for the next four years, we looked to see for an individual patient if they were they admitted to the emergency room and if they were hospitalized. What we found is that the patients that we’re seen in our specialty clinic had fewer emergency room visits over the span of those four years compared to primary care clinics. There were also fewer hospitalizations.”

The COPD clinics – one in Galveston and one in League City – apply guidelines on assessing and treating COPD. They stress patient education and instruct patients on how to use their inhalers and manage their disease. These patients got an action plan that included a phone number to reach the nursing staff to report symptoms and possibly get prescriptions.

Patients in the COPD clinics got more attention including diagnostic, preventive and screening measures, the researchers stated. These Joint Commission-accredited clinics use a structured evaluation and management of patients with COPD.

Besides Duarte, the other authors of the study are Dr. Mandeep Singh, En Shuo Hsu, Dr. Efstathia Polychronopoulou and Dr. Gulshan Sharma.

The study was published in the July issue of The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Journal of the COPD Foundation.