By Sherleen H. Mahoney
People afflicted with medical conditions, such as COPD, have a greater level of involvement and knowledge thanks to the Internet. People seek up-to-date and accurate information on diagnosis, treatment, prevention as well as medical advances. Those who rely on HME professionals have an ally in obtaining such information. HME suppliers who care want their clients to look to them as a constant source of education and support as well as a provider of medical equipment and supplies. Through efforts such as providing support groups, patient educational materials and seminars with medical professionals, a personal bond is established between HME suppliers and clients. The ability to provide such information and support fuels clients’ confidence and appreciation, which in turn establishes satisfied customers.
Education is specifically important when dealing with a disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because sufferers need help managing the illness, from smoking cessation to responding to acute exacerbations. Education is also important to raising awareness about the disease because while smoking is not the only cause of COPD, it is a major risk factor.
HME dealers and their clients can look to the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Web site for current information about COPD. The ATS routinely reaches out to patients, the public and to health professionals for the purpose of education. ATS offers live events, monographs and newsletters, specialized courses, audiocassettes, CDs and online learning. A patient education section found under the Education tab provides printable patient education materials and features various information series specifically about COPD. Topics include overviews, signs and symptoms, medicines, pulmonary function tests and surgery.
The American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society Task Force developed “Standards for the diagnosis and management of patients with COPD,” which can also be found on the ATS Web page under COPD Guidelines on the Clinical Information tab. This user-friendly page designed for professionals and patients includes topics on the importance of not smoking, specific recommendations on oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, non-invasive ventilation, surgery, sleep, air travel and end-of-life care.
The 2006 International Conference of the American Thoracic Society was held on May 19-24 in San Diego. More than 15,000 pulmonary and critical care clinicians and researchers around the world gathered to view more than 5,000 research presentations, and to share and discuss current and significant developments in clinical practice, health advocacy and education.
One COPD presentation from the conference was titled, “The BODE Index, Quality of Life and Gender: Are There Any Differences?” The BODE index has been used with COPD patients to predict both all-cause mortality and death from respiratory problems. Using the index, these researchers assessed disease severity in 85 female COPD patients. They compared their results with those from 95 male COPD patients, including details on age, body mass index, breathlessness quotient (dyspnea), lung function and six-minute walk test distance. In addition, the investigators measured the quality of life among male and female patients. They found that the female COPD patients were significantly younger, had slightly lower lung function test results, suffered from more breathlessness, had worse disease severity, and tested for a lower quality of life. The research indicated that these differences could play a role in the increased mortality rate among female COPD patients.
The ATS publishes original and review articles, case reports, debates and scientific findings in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Published twice a month, the journal ranks number one in citations in the Respiratory System in Science Citation Index and features a section specifically dedicated to COPD.
For example, a finding titled, “Endurance Walking Test Distance Improved Significantly for COPD Patients” appeared in the April 15 issue of the journal. In this study of 82 patients with severe but stable COPD, researchers found that breathing a special gas mixture comprised of varying oxygen and helium levels during exercise may significantly improve performance ability. The investigators tested four different gas mixtures: 72 percent helium and 28 percent oxygen (Heliox28); 79 percent helium and 21 percent oxygen (Heliox21); 72 percent nitrogen and 28 percent oxygen (Oxygen28); and 79 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen (medical air). During an endurance walking test, these gas mixtures were administered through face masks and the study found that patients were able to improve their walking distance by 64 percent and reported less shortness of breath when breathing Heliox 28 rather than with either Heliox 21 or Oxygen 28.
Education is essential in the successful management of the disease. By relying on experts such as the ATS as an accurate and up-to-date source of information, HME professionals and their clients have access to a wealth of knowledge.
For more information on the ATS, visit www.thoracic.org