Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are missing out on vital programs that can significantly help with their quality of life.
Monash University researchers say people living with COPD have access to a range of drug treatment options, there is a low participation rate in rehabilitation programs, which can can greatly help patients. In fact, less than 5 per cent of those who would benefit from it actually participate.
COPD incorporates many kinds of lung disease (including emphysema, bronchitis, asthma and interstitial lung disease); all leave patients feeling breathless, which can disrupt daily routines and productivity. It is expected to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide in the next few years.
For people with stable chronic respiratory disease, pulmonary rehabilitation is a cornerstone of treatment. The rehabilitation model conventionally consists of supervised exercise training, education, self-management strategies and support delivered to groups of patients at least twice a week for eight weeks or longer in either an inpatient or outpatient setting.
The researchers say while participation reduces the likelihood of patients being admitted to hospital, well-documented barriers include a lack of available programs and a poor referral rate.
However, they say whole-body exercise training can be terrifying for someone with a lung problem, especially older patients who might have other health conditions. And travelling to a rehabilitation centre for regular appointments can seem like an insurmountable obstacle to someone who is breathless with even small amounts of physical activity.
While not equivalent to centre-based rehabilitation, the home-based program has been shown to achieve clinically meaningful outcomes.
"I think we are now starting to finally see some innovation in the treatment models which haven't changed in 30 years," Professor Holland said.
"Working together with patients, and listening to their needs, we are starting to do things differently. However, we need to be vigilant around quality and define what the essential components of rehabilitation need to be regardless of the model of delivery.
"The future of pulmonary rehabilitation will involve more choices for patients and greater personalisation of programs."
Find out more about COPD from The Lung Foundation HERE