Background: Most interventions aimed at reducing hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have employed resource-intense programs in high-risk individuals. Although COPD is a progressive disease, little is known about the effectiveness of proactive interventions aimed at preventing hospitalizations and ED visits in the much larger population of low-risk (no known COPD-related hospitalizations or ED visits in the prior year) patients, some of whom will eventually become high-risk. Methods: We tested the effect of a simple educational and self-efficacy intervention (n = 2243) versus usual care (n = 2182) on COPD/breathing-related ED visits and hospitalizations in a randomized study of low-risk patients at three Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in the upper Midwest. Administrative data was used to track VA admissions and ED visits. A patient survey was used to determine health-related events outside the VA. Results: Rates of COPD-related VA hospitalizations in the education and usual care group were not significantly different (3.4 versus 3.6 admissions per 100 person-years, respectively; 95% CI of difference -1.3 to 1.0, P = 0.77). The much higher patient-reported rates of non-VA hospitalizations for breathing-related problems were lower in the education group (14.0 versus 19.0 per 100 person-years; 95% CI -8.6 to -1.4, P = 0.006). Rates of COPD-related VA ED visits were not significantly different (6.8 versus 5.3; 95% CI -0.1 to 3.0, P = 0.07), nor were non-VA ED visits (32.4 versus 36.5; 95% CI -9.3 to 1.1, P = 0.12). All-cause VA admission and ED rates did not differ. Mortality rates (6.9 versus 8.3 per 100 person-years, respectively; 95% CI -3.0 to 0.4, P = 0.13) did not differ. Conclusion: An educational intervention that is practical for large numbers of low-risk patients with COPD may reduce the rate of breathing-related hospitalizations. Further research that more closely tracks hospitalizations to non-VA facilities is needed to confirm this finding.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health