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Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2012;7:719-28. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S36025. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

Randomized trial of pragmatic education for low-risk COPD patients: impact on hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

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University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI, USA.



Most interventions aimed at reducing hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have employed resource-intense programs in high-risk individuals. Although COPD is a progressive disease, little is known about the effectiveness of proactive interventions aimed at preventing hospitalizations and ED visits in the much larger population of low-risk (no known COPD-related hospitalizations or ED visits in the prior year) patients, some of whom will eventually become high-risk.


We tested the effect of a simple educational and self-efficacy intervention (n = 2243) versus usual care (n = 2182) on COPD/breathing-related ED visits and hospitalizations in a randomized study of low-risk patients at three Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in the upper Midwest. Administrative data was used to track VA admissions and ED visits. A patient survey was used to determine health-related events outside the VA.


Rates of COPD-related VA hospitalizations in the education and usual care group were not significantly different (3.4 versus 3.6 admissions per 100 person-years, respectively; 95% CI of difference -1.3 to 1.0, P = 0.77). The much higher patient-reported rates of non-VA hospitalizations for breathing-related problems were lower in the education group (14.0 versus 19.0 per 100 person-years; 95% CI -8.6 to -1.4, P = 0.006). Rates of COPD-related VA ED visits were not significantly different (6.8 versus 5.3; 95% CI -0.1 to 3.0, P = 0.07), nor were non-VA ED visits (32.4 versus 36.5; 95% CI -9.3 to 1.1, P = 0.12). All-cause VA admission and ED rates did not differ. Mortality rates (6.9 versus 8.3 per 100 person-years, respectively; 95% CI -3.0 to 0.4, P = 0.13) did not differ.


An educational intervention that is practical for large numbers of low-risk patients with COPD may reduce the rate of breathing-related hospitalizations. Further research that more closely tracks hospitalizations to non-VA facilities is needed to confirm this finding.


chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; disease management; education; self-efficacy

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