Advantages of point of care pulmonary function testing (PFT) during COVID-19

Aug 14, 2020

Patients with respiratory issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Point of care pulmonary function testing (PFT) can help keep them safer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. About 3 million people die each year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) alone, making it the third leading cause of death across the globe. Other respiratory issues such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema can also cause major health issues or even death in compromised individuals. Given COVID-19’s impact on respiratory health, it is crucial to perform pulmonary function testing for an accurate diagnosis and proper management of COPD and other lung diseases.

It has been shown that COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory issues, including shortness of breath. That is also a common symptom of COPD, asthma, and heart failure.  So, how can hospitals ensure that their patients are receiving a proper diagnosis? The answer is a combination of diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) testing and spirometry.

Let’s first discuss some of the dangers of COPD and why it’s so important for the proper diagnosis to be reached.

The Dangers of COPD

The most common symptoms of COPD include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic cough

One of the biggest problems surrounding COPD is that patients are also more prone to everything from the common cold to the flu. For example, people with COPD are at a greater risk of experiencing other types of respiratory infections.  Also, those with COPD have a greater chance of experiencing heart conditions, lung cancer, and high blood pressure.  Needless to say, with those risks and complications in mind, getting a proper diagnosis as quickly as possible can help to save lives.

COPD Patients at Higher Risk of COVID19 Infection

Because those with COPD are at a greater risk of other health ailments and diseases, they also fall under the category of people who are at a greater risk of contracting Coronavirus. Other underlying medical conditions caused by COPD can increase COVID-19’s impact.

According to the CDC, those with COPD should take the following steps to stay healthy in the wake of COVID-19:

  • Keep taking current medications
  • Have at least a 30-day supply of your medications on hand at any given time
  • Avoid triggers that exacerbate symptoms
  • Contact a healthcare provider if you feel sick

Obviously, if emergency medical attention is needed, those with COPD, asthma, or other respiratory issues should visit the hospital immediately. But, when it comes to pulmonary function testing, point of care options are the best way to get accurate results quickly.

Unless COVID-19 is managed and under control across the world, we will continue to see the number of cases grow, and the death toll will continue to rise. Those who will likely be impacted the most are those with compromised immune systems and underlying conditions. Education is the best place to start when it comes to informing those with COPD about their risk of this illness, and what they can do to help prevent it.

What is the Best Testing Option?

As stated above, one of the best ways to properly diagnose COPD is with a diffusing capacity test (DLCO), combined with spirometry.  This combination will give you the best, most accurate information. Not only can this approach diagnose existing cases of COPD, but the combination will be useful for long-term care and proper diagnosis of patients moving forward.

According to Johns Hopkins University, recovery time for the lungs after COVID-19 can last three months to a year. There are factors to consider when it comes to lung recovery, including the severity of the virus, other existing health problems, and what type of treatment the patient receives. Simply put, many COVID-19 survivors may have limited lung function for some time. Even for someone who beats the virus, it’s important to be able to measure lung function so recovery can be monitored and treated.

What Are the Advantages of Point of Care Testing?

There are many advantages to point of care pulmonary function testing. Given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, this type of testing is more important and beneficial than ever.

Some of the biggest advantages of point of care PFT testing include:

  • It is done quickly
  • Fast test results
  • The development of a quick treatment plan
  • Reduces a patient’s stay in a healthcare facility

Are Your Patients at Risk?

Far too many people are currently living undiagnosed of underlying respiratory issues. It is this undiagnosed population that could be at the greatest risk because proper care and treatment aren’t being administered. Many people are currently walking around with respiratory issues like COPD, and may be experiencing the symptoms, but haven’t undergone official testing. That puts them in a dangerous position during this pandemic.

So, how can they be managed?

First, knowing a patient’s DLCO results is a great marker for overall lung health. It can be an early predictor of COPD. If a patient is expressing things like shortness of breath, chest tightness, or coughing more than usual, a DLCO test can help to determine if they have COPD or not.  However, due to the Coronavirus, a ‘baseline’ DLCO test can do so much more. Patients who have a DLCO test prior to developing the disease may be easier to treat.

Disease Management in the Future

Thanks to advancements in technology and the ever-growing need for an alternative to laboratory testing, healthcare professionals need to take a serious look at the benefits of point of care pulmonary function testing for patients with COPD and other respiratory disorders. Point of care testing is absolutely possible today and provides detailed information, making it easier to develop a care and treatment plan that works.

The healthcare industry has been adapting as necessary since the COVID-19 pandemic first struck. This is another way to add value during the pandemic, and well beyond. Point of care testing is not only useful now, but it is a key tool for managing COPD and comorbid diseases in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about point of care pulmonary function testing, the technology behind it, or how it can help your patients, visit the EasyOne product family here.

By: Georg Harnoncourt, CEO 

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