Date: 15 September 2017
Wearable technology could give hope to some 3 million people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), according to a new report produced by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in collaboration with the Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College London.
COPD describes a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have been narrowed. In the UK alone 1.2 million people live with diagnosed COPD, yet millions of people still remain undiagnosed – the ‘missing millions’ range between 1.8 – 2 million in the UK alone.
The report, Implantable and Wearable Medical Devices for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, highlights new technologies that have the potential to improve patient lives, from diagnosis, treatment, to rehabilitation.
Handing control to patients
COPD patients often experience 'flare-ups' of their condition (known as exacerbations) caused by triggers such as bacteria, viruses and pollutants which inflame the airways. A simple portable device could allow patients to assess their condition at home and help identify when their condition is worsening.
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, CBE, Imperial College London, said:
"COPD is a significant burden not only to patients but also to the economy and society as a whole. Implantable and wearable medical devices are the future of medicine, and with the emerging trend for personalised care they have the potential to improve patient health and save the NHS money."
Anthony de-Soyza, National Specialty Lead for Respiratory Disorders for the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, said:
"Implantable and wearable medical devices are an exciting development in COPD and offer hope to some 3 million people living with the disease. These new technologies have the potential to hand greater control to patients with COPD and their carers, and empower them to better manage what can be such a debilitating condition. It is only through researching these and finding their role in COPD that we can make such important progress."
Healthcare costs of COPD
COPD is the second most common cause of emergency admissions to hospital. It is also one of the most costly inpatient conditions that the NHS treats – the direct healthcare cost is estimated at over £800 million a year. Some 24 million working days are lost each year to
COPD – equivalent to around £2.7 billion worth of productivity.
Dedicated wearable devices for monitoring COPD means patients could be treated earlier at home – reducing the decline in their lung function, improving their quality of life and at the same time decreasing hospitalisation costs.
Smoking is a major contributor to COPD and patients are required to stop smoking to alleviate symptoms and avoid secondary smoke. The report reaffirms the importance of prevention for COPD, through educational interventions and smoking cessation programmes, while highlighting how novel wearable devices can help address both psychological and physiological symptoms of addiction.
The report was produced under the auspices of NIHR Clinical Research Network Medical Directorate, under the direction of Professor Des Johnston, with team members Jacqueline Matthews and Joy Liao.
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