29 Apr 2020

Monash program offering at-home care for patients with lung and respiratory conditions

Professor Anne Holland with a lung patient
by Tania Ewing

One of the questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic is how best to manage both non-COVID and COVID patients with lung conditions while they remain in home isolation.

A home-based program developed by Monash researcher, Professor Anne Holland, is gaining global attention because it is designed to assist clinicians with developing at-home rehabilitation programs for people with respiratory illness.

“These patients are highly compromised and at risk of developing a serious form of COVID if exposed to the virus, so it is imperative that they remain in isolation where possible,” Professor Holland said.

A recent clinical trial involving two groups (166 participants in total) were compared straight after the standard 8-week outpatient rehabilitation model for people with lung disease (normally twice-weekly trips to the hospital) and again 12 months after the trial completion.  The study found that the home-based rehabilitation was just as effective as the outpatient model with patient success measured by their ability to walk for six minutes unaided.

The online program allows for a specialist clinician to meet a patient’s unique rehabilitation needs and involves one at-home visit, followed by weekly telehealth meetings providing review and advice for a self-management program of exercise, diet and mental health with their condition monitored remotely.

“As we prepare for a massive influx of patients recovering from COVID, many of them with lung issues and ideally minimising any unnecessary hospital visits or face-to-face contact with a doctor – there has never been a more important time to ensure patients have access and the option to choose an online program,” Professor Holland said.

One of Professor Holland’s patients, 84 year old David Muir, from Melbourne, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was rushed to the Alfred Hospital with severe pneumonia after months of trying to fight off the flu which got worse and worse. He was in hospital for over a week before his infection was under control and he could breathe comfortably without an oxygen supply.

Determined to recover fully David devoted himself to the rehab program and prided himself on completing the challenges of each day, pushing himself harder as his health improved.

"The home-based program, with individual follow-up calls each week of the program, works so well for me.  The habit of doing these exercises has stuck with me. I hope to keep me and my lungs as fit as can be," he said.

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