How can management plans help COPD patients?
Life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be complex and hard to manage. Patients may have several different kinds of medications to keep track of, and COPD symptoms can change from day to day. Acute exacerbations, which are also called COPD flare-ups, can happen very suddenly and get worse quickly. Patients on oxygen therapy may have to deal with various kinds of equipment.
It is important for COPD patients to be in control of managing their disease as much as possible. COPD management plans can be very useful tools for helping COPD patients to feel more secure and to take an active role in their disease management.
How does a COPD management plan work?1,2,3
Healthcare providers and pulmonary rehabilitation programs may recommend specific types of COPD management plans, and give patients advice and guidance about how to use them. The American Lung Association (called “ALA” for short) also provides a useful set of plans that COPD patients and their healthcare providers may choose to use.
COPD management plans usually have several parts. For instance, the ALA plan includes:
- “My COPD Management Plan”
- “My COPD Action Plan”
- “My COPD Report Card”
These forms are available for download at this link: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/copd-management-tools.html
Every patient’s COPD and treatment plan is unique, so each patient will need a management plan personalized just for them. These plans contain tools that help patients to:
- Keep a record of their symptoms
- Organize their medications
- Plan for emergencies
- Communicate well with healthcare providers
What is a COPD Self-Management Plan?1,2
This part of a COPD plan helps patients to keep a general record of their symptoms and treatment regimen. For instance, the ALA “My COPD Management Plan” is a form that patients can fill out with their healthcare provider and then bring to each doctor’s visit. It includes information such as:
- Contact information
- Current lung function measurements
- Overview of the patient’s lung healthcare plan
- List of current medicines and treatments
- Other health conditions the patient has
What is a COPD Action Plan?1,2
The second part of a COPD management plan helps patients know what to do if their symptoms get worse. Sometimes, symptoms can be treated at home. In other cases, patients need to contact a healthcare provider or seek emergency help right away. This part of the plan should be updated during every visit with a healthcare provider.
As an example, the ALA “My COPD Action Plan” lists green, yellow, and red zones of COPD symptoms. Each symptom is linked to the action that should be taken. This can help make COPD patients feel more secure and confident about how to deal with symptoms that may change greatly from day to day.
What is a COPD Report Card?1,3
Another part of a COPD management plan is for patients to keep track of their daily symptoms and flare-ups. This can be used to help patients talk to healthcare providers about how they have been feeling since the last time they met. For patients who are having a flare-up, it can help them to describe how they are feeling in a more clear and precise way.
For instance, the ALA “My COPD Report Card” form can help patients to keep a record of:
- Medications and refill schedules
- Any problems with medications
- Oxygen therapy usage
- Smoking habits
- How frequent and severe COPD symptoms have been
- Information about flare-ups
- How breathless they feel
- Activity level
- How many good days and bad days they have had
- Any other concerns or questions they have