How a New Program is Helping Patients Breathe Better (Video)

Dick Nelson is breathing better thanks to the help of his UnityPoint Health care team.

Dick Nelson has always had an active lifestyle.

“I play golf, I go fishing, I go hunting, and everything’s fine,” Nelson says.

But, recently things changed for Nelson.

“I can’t walk the dog, I can’t do the dishes, I can’t wash clothes – things I’ve done all my life I can’t do because I can’t breathe,” Nelson says.

Nelson was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He’s not alone, 50 percent of adults with low lung (pulmonary) function are not aware they are suffering with COPD. It’s the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Luckily, Nelson’s doctor identified him as someone who would benefit from the UnityPoint Health Care Management Program. The program identifies patients who may benefit from additional services to help manage chronic health conditions, like COPD.

“We’re looking at what we call risk stratification scores, and that’s really helping us identify the patients who are at risk for re-admission,” Dr. Monica Minjeur, UnityPoint Health, says. “Then, once we identify those patients, we’re bringing them into the clinic for a follow-up to kind of look further into seeing what we can do to help keep them out of the hospital for that re-admit.”

Dr. Minjeur’s clinic is part of the program, which has allowed it to take a new approach to identifying COPD, assessing its severity and developing treatment plans. The new approach is already seeing positive results.

WATCH: Dick Nelson's Story

“We’ve seen actually a decrease in re-admissions to the hospital, as well as a decrease in the number of patients having exasperations requiring hospitalizations or follow-ups,” Dr. Minjeur says.

Nelson’s participation in the program helped him learn to better manage the disease.

“A few months ago, I couldn’t walk from the chair in the bathroom, which I figure is about 20 feet. By the time I’d get there, I’d be panting. However, once I got on the nebulizer and these treatments I’m taking and the walker, it has made it possible for me to walk,” Nelson says.

Dr. Minjeur says it’s stories like Nelsons’ that prove the Care Management Program is making a difference.

“We were really excited to see this pilot helped improve the quality of care for our patients, not only because they’re breathing better, but it’s also helping them on a day to day basis,” Dr. Minjeur says.

“Without them, I don’t know where I’d be, honestly,” Nelson says.

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