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Educational Efforts Reduce COPD Costs by $3.4 Million in East Texas Study

FORT WORTH, Texas, March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released by the UNT Health Science Center shows that residents of 12 counties in East Texas are breathing a little easier due in part to a year-long education campaign conducted by the health science center's Center for Professional and Continuing Education regarding the diagnosis and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  The report shows that the educational program contributed to approximately 50 percent fewer hospital admissions due to complications of COPD, which saved the Texas' health care system $3.4 million.  

The educational initiative, proposed and conducted by the UNT Health Science Center and funded by Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), educated more than 350 health care professionals in the rural areas of East Texas improve their ability to talk to patients about the condition and more accurately test for and treat COPD.

COPD is responsible for one death every four minutes in the US and at least 12 million cases remain undiagnosed. Between 2005 and 2008 in Texas, COPD was responsible for more than 109,000 hospitalizations costing more than $2.7 billion.  The UNT Health Science Center researched Texas health data and current literature, which formed the basis of the proposal. The grant requests were funded, and UNTHSC independently launched a series of continuing medical education (CME) activities and follow-up cases targeting the counties in East Texas with the highest rates of preventable hospitalizations due to COPD.

"Almost immediately, we began seeing improvements in physician confidence related to guideline-appropriate treatment, testing and patient education," says Pam McFadden, associate vice president of UNT Health Science Center's Center for Professional and Continuing Education.  "In on-site and follow-up interviews and surveys, everyone who attended said they would increase the use of proper  testing, use proven smoking cessation strategies and work locally to overcome the barriers to improving COPD outcomes."

According to Andrew Crim, the Center's executive director, increased testing would have been enough to make a strong case for the need for more education.  "However, the true measure of CME is improving patient care and community health," he says.  "So we studied the impact of these educational efforts long term by analyzing hospital admission data already collected by the state and other sources of information.

To measure the long-term outcomes, researchers looked at the number of prescriptions for drugs recommended to treat COPD, the number of new diagnoses and the number of potentially preventable hospitalizations caused by COPD reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Rates before and after the educational activities were compared, and the results are significant.

"All the data we looked at went in the direction we hoped it would. It showed that when providers use established guidelines and patients are treated according to those guidelines, the result is improved health," McFadden said.

The Texas Public Use Data File, a combined set of statistics reported by each hospital in the state, shows that 2-3 months before the health care providers in these counties attended the activities, there were 1,538 potentially preventable hospitalizations due to COPD. In the same time period following the programs, only 1,402 were observed – a reduction of 136. The data also show that other counties of similar size and population saw reductions, but the counties targeted by the study saw a 49 percent  greater reduction, saving the health care system more than $3.4 million.  

"Pfizer is proud to be a pioneer in supporting innovative medical education programs that really make an impact in local communities. The University of North Texas COPD education program is a good example of the positive impact providing the right information, at the right time and in the right way can have on improving patient care," said Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., chief medical officer for Pfizer.

"This demonstrates that a combined effort of CME in a targeted area can have a significant impact on specific health problems," said Bruce Dubin, D.O., the activity's co-chair and dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Rocky Vista University.

"These data clearly show that outcomes in health with regard to COPD and smoking cessation can be improved when designed and delivered in an understandable fashion combined with the accessibility of experts to answer questions," said Richard Winn, M.D., professor of Medicine and Microbiology at Texas Tech Health Science Center in Lubbock and the program's co-chair. "That's an opportunity physicians in rural Texas communities don't usually get in their own backyard."  

"When CME is planned and implemented properly and it's done the way we all know it is supposed to be done, it can contribute to healthier communities," Crim said.

University of North Texas Health Science Center

The University of North Texas Health Science Center comprises the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Public Health, and the School of Health Professions. Key research areas include aging and Alzheimer's disease, DNA research, and primary care.  This year, the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was named a top 50 medical school in primary care by U.S. News & World Report for the ninth consecutive year. "Fort Worth's medical school and more" contributes more than $500 million to the Tarrant County and Texas economies annually.  

SOURCE UNT Health Science Center
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