More on Quality and Safety

COPD readmissions can be reduced through positive airway pressure therapy, study says

Only 7.5 percent of the more than 1.8 million COPD patients analyzed were receiving any form of PAP therapy.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

COPD hospitalizations are at an all-time high. The 30-day readmission rate for patients ranges from 20-39 percent, with related healthcare costs at an estimated $50 billion. Yet a recent study by Royal Philips showed that positive airway pressure therapy was associated with a reduction in hospitalization, and few so far are taking advantage: More than 92 percent of patients studied were not receiving it in any form.

The findings are relevant for providers looking for ways to cut down on their COPD-related readmission rates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services levies penalties to those who report below-average performance on readmissions and numerous other quality measures.

The retrospective study, led by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, professor of medicine and interim chief of Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine with University of Arizona College of Medicine, revealed that only 7.5 percent of the more than 1.8 million COPD patients analyzed were receiving any form of PAP therapy.

[Also: Quality improvement programs reduce readmissions, but hospitals may not see huge savings, say researchers]

There are multiple modes of PAP treatment which can take place at home to help people alleviate symptoms of respiratory illness. The reviewed administrative claims data suggested that individuals receiving either Bi-level, continuous or noninvasive positive pressure ventilation therapy experienced lower hospitalization risk than before the therapy, as well as lower hospitalization risk than those who did not receive any positive airway pressure therapy at all.

The study suggested a dual benefit to the approach -- lowering the cost burden for health systems, which is now in the billions, while allowing patients to recover comfortable in their own homes.

"Many clinicians still reference dated information when considering COPD treatment methods, yet technologies, machines and even masks have advanced significantly since PAP therapy was first introduced," said Philips Respiratory Care Business Leader Eli Diacopoulos in a statement. "This study demonstrates the vast opportunity for the industry to further adopt recent innovations for COPD treatment."

Patients with multiple chronic medical conditions were analyzed as part of this bioinformatics "real world" study. Comorbidities such as sleep apnea, chronic respiratory failure and heart failure were associated with greater benefits from PAP therapy, though ultimately, results showed that further clinical study into a causal connection between PAP therapy and reduced hospital readmissions of COPD patients is warranted.

Twitter: @JELagasse