Transition of Patients with COPD Across Different Care Settings:

Challenges and Opportunities for Hospitalists

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Chan Chuang, MD, FCCP, FACP

Table of Contents

Hospital Practice:

Volume 40 No. 1

Category:

Clinical Features

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DOI: 10.3810/hp.2012.02.958
Abstract: Hospitalists play an important role in treating current and preventing future acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD), which are associated with high rates of medical resource use and morbidity. Comprehensive admission screening and diagnostic tests are important in enabling hospitalists to reliably identify patients with AECOPD, the severity of the episode, and related issues that may prolong patients’ hospital length of stay. Recurring exacerbations, especially those that require repeated acute care, can reduce physical activity and accelerate pulmonary decline and risk of death. Recommended pharmacotherapies for AECOPD should include short-acting bronchodilators, systemic corticosteroids, and appropriate antibiotics in cases of suspected bacterial infection. Patients with demonstrable hypoxemia or respiratory failure may benefit from oxygen and/or ventilatory support. Long-term disease management with the goal of preventing future exacerbations should include ongoing emphasis toward smoking cessation and up-to-date vaccination, in addition to prescribing maintenance pharmacotherapies in accordance with respiratory treatment guidelines. Additional benefits may be derived from nonpharmacologic therapies, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, weight-loss recommendations, and treatment of obstructive sleep dyspnea when present. Effective communication among members of the inpatient and outpatient health care teams, the patient, and his or her caregivers is an important aspect of care transitions. Hospital discharge summaries should be transmitted to the patient’s primary care physician and be readily available at the first follow-up visit. Discharge coaches and other allied health care providers can aid hospitalists in reinforcing self-management skills and patient education, and in emphasizing the importance of follow-up visits. Recent findings suggest that health and cost benefits are associated with improved COPD management. This article focuses on the pivotal role of the hospitalist in promoting and facilitating the steps toward improving quality outcomes and transitions of care for patients with COPD.

Keywords: hospital discharge; COPD; exacerbations; self-management