Monday, June 09, 2008

Telemedicine Rehab Helps COPD Patients

news you may not knowYeah - Good Choice...

It makes sense, despite its irony. Years of sitting in front of the television may finally pay off. It seems the expertise we've developed in paying attention to every twist and turn of plot might actually help us learn to twist and turn our own bodies. Maybe even work up a bit of a sweat. That's a good thing - especially if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a chronic lung disease in which the lungs are partly obstructed, making it hard to breathe. The most common cause of COPD is, no surprise, cigarette smoking. Other possible causes include exposure to dust and chemicals, or to pollution for an extended period.

This is serious stuff. The World Health Organization estimated 2.74 million people died of COPD worldwide in 2000. In the United States, there are about 16 million people diagnosed with COPD, and possibly as many as 14 million more undiagnosed.

Canadians have come up with a unique approach to treating COPD patients in rural areas. Yes, they're using television - telemedicine, actually. Respiratory therapists specialize in treating conditions of the lungs. But, there simply aren't enough to go around. So, in the same way American Idol reaches millions of viewers, a new program allows therapists to treat patients over the airwaves.

The Telehealth Pulmonary Rehabilitation program treats patients who are unable to visit a clinic for personal therapy sessions. Patients in remote areas go to a local community center twice each week. They receive their therapy and exercise instruction by certified respiratory therapists over the television. The directors of the program say this gives the patients the confidence to participate without fear of overdoing things.

An assessment of the program showed the remote therapy to be every bit as effective as in-person therapy. After 8 weeks of telemedicine therapy, the patients could walk greater distances in a 12-minute period, and their quality of life was improved. Score one for television.

This is good news. But, even better news will be never having the need for this type therapy. So, ditch the television now and get outside. Breathe the fresh air, take a walk and thank your lucky stars - you're on your way to a telemedicine-free future...

To read more about the program and study, see this form Reuters. To learn more about COPD, including tips on prevention, see this from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.


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