Using tech to support COPD patients
PhD student Helena Tendedez reflects on how technology can help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during the coronavirus outbreak.
A global pandemic is a challenging time for everyone – but it is especially frightening for people with chronic respiratory conditions.
COPD patients are at particularly high risk of severe illness if they become infected with coronavirus, and they are relying on support from healthcare professionals, family members, and their community as they self-isolate.
Understanding how we can support the health of this high-risk patient group during the crisis is of vital importance.
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare experts have emphasised the importance of keeping safe through regular hand washing and social distancing from others to prevent the spread of the virus.
But could technology be a key contributor in keeping people with COPD safe and well at home?
As part of my doctoral research at Lancaster University, funded by Connected Health Cities, I worked in partnership with people with chronic respiratory conditions to understand how technology can support them to self-manage their condition.
Technology has an important role to play in supporting our NHS to respond to this pandemic, and my research can help to inform how technology can support COPD patients during this time.
Adapting to the current challenges through the use of digital solutions can help to keep patients managing their condition safely and effectively at home.
Video consultations are an example of how healthcare is being made accessible without increasing both patients’ and healthcare professionals’ potential exposure to coronavirus.
However, managing a chronic respiratory condition goes beyond routine appointments with a healthcare professional.
For example, people may self-monitor their respiratory symptoms to share with support networks and carry out rehabilitative exercises with the support of technology.
They may also rely on family and friends to assist with physical activities (such as going to the shops or picking up a prescription), and count on trusted peers to provide companionship and emotional support.
These are all incredibly important dimensions of self-care that may be harder to achieve under social distancing requirements and amid anxiousness about becoming unwell.
Digital solutions could help to support the way that COPD patients adapt their self-care practices during this challenging time.
I have put together some key pointers for those looking to support the roll-out of technology to support COPD patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Key takeaways to remotely support respiratory care
Are you considering rolling out technology that can help people with chronic respiratory conditions during this difficult time?
Whether this is a symptom monitoring tool, information portal, or something entirely new – my research with this patient group could offer useful insights to help you use technology effectively.
Through working with people with chronic respiratory conditions to consider their self-care needs and technology engagement, I put forward three key considerations that can help you to support them during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Consider platform-neutral solutions to increase inclusivity and reach. Can mobile apps also run as websites accessible on desktop PCs? Not everyone can afford the latest smartphones, so think about the different ways that support can be offered.
- Support networks are invaluable to people with chronic respiratory conditions, especially if they are physically isolated. Connecting people remotely to family or healthcare professionals to monitor health and wellbeing can support the collaborative and early detection of health status change.
- Help people to understand what they can do to avoid becoming unwell. Make sure to include advice that supports both physical and mental health. Use your platform to share the latest self-care advice and tips from respiratory specialists and trusted charities that can help people adapt their usual practices and support their physical and mental health during this difficult time.
I believe that technology has major potential to help us support one another during this pandemic. I hope to see innovation that supports people with chronic respiratory conditions to feel connected, safe and healthy.
If you are interested in my research in this space and want to discuss further, please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Helena Tendedez is a PhD student at Lancaster University working on the Connected Health Cities (CHC) project which aims to make better use of data to improve health services.
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