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2017 AARC Congress: Focus on COPD

By Kathey Leibold, RRT
MD Buyline Clinical Analyst

“Patients Take Center Stage” was the headline on the program at the recent American Association for Respiratory Care Congress in Indianapolis, and the theme of patient-centered care was reflected in sessions, lectures, and presentations over the four-day event.

With the introduction of the National Institutes of Health Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) National Action Plan earlier this year, there is an emphasis on the disease and on its patient-centered management.

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The plan’s goals are to:

• Promote awareness and understanding of COPD;
• Improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of COPD;
• Increase collection, analysis, and sharing of data to track progress and drive change;
• Increase COPD research;
• Translate national policy, educational, and program recommendations into research and public health care actions.

Claire Wineland, a 20-year-old cystic fibrosis patient and advocate for those with chronic lung disease, delivered the keynote address. She spoke about how she works to inspire and empower patients to live fully every day. While advancements in science are important, she said, “How can the current health care system shift the focus to the patient?” She added that she wanted to be thought of as more than just a patient. As someone with a chronic disease, Claire noted that she seeks ongoing support to live the best life possible. She stressed that health care professionals should not fight against a disease, but rather fight for an improved life.

Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, current president of the COPD Foundation, addressed AARC attendees, patients, and caregivers at the third annual Respiratory Patient Advocacy Summit. The wife of broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, she was diagnosed with COPD in 2001.

Sharman Lamka, president and co-founder of The FACES (Family and Caregiver Education & Support) Foundation, presented awards to respiratory therapists working in chronic lung disease care. The FACES Foundation promotes professional excellence in the education and care of patients with pulmonary illnesses. The foundation honors the memory of Ms. Lamka’s husband, Philip C. Lamka, and his struggle with ILD, Interstitial Lung Disease.

Meilan Han, M.D., of the University of Michigan, presented “Challenges of COPD Care” at the fifth annual Thomas L. Petty Memorial Lecture. COPD is the third-leading cause of death and the fourth-leading cause of disability in the United States. Dr. Han shared that 16 million Americans are diagnosed with chronic lung disease, and the numbers are growing. “Over 50 percent of those suffering with pulmonary disease remain undiagnosed,” she noted. “COPD patients are younger, and more are women. The new face of COPD is a woman under the age of 65.”

Dr. Han added that challenges to care include low socioeconomic status, limited access to both acute and rehabilitative care, limited access to pharmaceutical therapies, and limited smoking cessation assistance. There are also barriers to the diagnosis of COPD. This disease is both underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed, with limited spirometry availability at the primary care level, and limited expertise for interpretation.

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