GPH program helps patients cope with COPD

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. KNOP A program at Great Plains Health is helping patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, live active lives while improving their quality of life.

It's called the COPD Navigator Service.

It's the only service of its kind in western Nebraska that closely manages and monitors patients once they've been discharged from the hospital.

COPD Navigator at Great Plains Health, Andy Gochenhour says, you don't need to be a smoker to have the disease. In fact, many of his patients are railroaders and farmers who don't even smoke.

Gochenour says even the most severe cases are manageable with the proper treatment.

"I do still have patients that come in and their doctor told them five or ten years ago that they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and they've been worried about it and they never treated themselves for it because of that," said Gochenour. "They come and they find out their COPD is manageable and it's easy to manage with a breathing treatment or an inhaler once or twice a day. Again, that is all directed from what we find on the pulmonary function test."

Re-admission rates have dropped three percent from 14 to 11 percent since the program was implemented. The national average is just above the 11 percent.

"CMS and Medicare have come down with guidelines about re-admissions and anybody that is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, it's a black mark on us so to speak and so we are trying to avoid some of that too."

Patients and/or their loved ones are encouraged to attend the Better Breathers Club. It's a partnership with the American Lung Association and meets for an hour on the third Thursday of every month at Great Plains Health at 3 PM.

Physicians provide information about nutrition, breathing and relaxation techniques. The program is free. Call 308-568-7366 for more information.