Digital tool enhances patient adherence to COPD treatment plan

Patients at a Kentucky facility had better health outcomes when their primary care physicians encouraged use of a digital tool to manage their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In a study, 190 patients at JenCare Senior Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., were given the Propeller digital health tool, which attaches a small sensor to patients’ inhalers. Propeller collects data on medication use and sends medication reminders, progress reports and disease insights to a patient’s smartphone, with reports also going to the patient’s doctor.

Clinicians then use real-time data points from Propeller to recommend adjustments to patients’ personalized care plans.

Patients participating in the study were monitored over 12 months. At three, six and 12 months, patients had significant reductions in daily rescue of inhalers at night. They also had increases in days when rescue use was not needed.

Over the 12 months, daily use of rescue medication dropped 59 percent, and days without the need for rescue use increased by 36 percent. Most importantly, digital health engagement in using the Propeller tool did not fall off over time, which can often occur after three months of patient’s use of a device, according to researchers

Patients using Propeller had a 90 percent engagement rate at the six-month mark, suggesting that digital tools are particularly effective at keeping patients engaged when a clinical care team is involved.

At JenCare, COPD patients average 208 minutes annually of face-to-face-time with their primary care physician, far more than average, and a level of interaction that may have enhanced compliance and outcomes in the study.

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Jessica Chen, MD

“This program was able to minimize the burden on providers while maximizing patient engagement in their own care, leading to significantly better outcomes,” says Jessica Chen, chief quality officer at ChenMed, the parent organization of JenCare. ChenMed is privately owned and will be operating more than 60 primary care practices for seniors in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia in 2020.

The study of the Propeller digital health tool has been published in the journal JMIR Formative Research.

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