August 25, 2016 7:54 pm
Updated: August 25, 2016 10:29 pm

COPD online assessment tool to improve treatment options for patients

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, BC.

Sergio Magro | Global News
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects one in 12 Canadians over the age of 40. That’s three million people who are currently living with the progressive lung disease in this country, making it the fourth-leading cause of death in Canada.

There is no cure, but there are medications that can slow down the damage that leads to increasingly challenging shortness of breath. The problem is, physicians have no way of knowing which patients they need to treat aggressively and those who have a milder form of the disease.

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As a result, many patients either get too much medication that can cost a lot of money and have potential side effects, or are under treated, which can allow the disease to destroy lung tissue at an accelerated rate.

READ MORE: St. Paul’s Hospital pilot project aims to help patients with COPD while reducing costs

But there is finally a solution to this problem. A brand new online program known as the Individualized Lung Function Predictor that was developed at UBC and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

All a physician has to do is fill in a few questions about the patient and it creates a graph showing how the patient’s disease will progress over the next 10 years.

“It sounds simple but it was a complicated research study involving investigators not just here but in the United States and Europe all coming together using a large databases and putting complex mathematical formula to come up with a simple algorithm to determine who has active disease and who does not,” said Dr. Don Sin, head of the respiratory medicine department at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The program can also help physicians tailor the best treatment for individual patients.

It is expected to help cut down on costs for treating COPD in Canada, currently estimated to be over $2 billion a year and $600 million in B.C. alone.

The online assessment will be available as an app, free of charge, as early as this fall, but in the meantime is available online.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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