Access to Specialty Care for COPD
While primary care providers are a critical component of COPD care coordination, specialty pulmonary
services are necessary for comprehensive treatment. The most common specialty service is pulmonary
rehabilitation, which includes exercise interventions and consultations with respiratory therapists
or dietitians. In more extreme cases, COPD patients may require lung surgery if medications or
pulmonary rehabilitation are not effective. In addition, COPD patients may require specialty care
services for other commonly comorbid conditions, such as cardiovascular services for heart disease or
dialysis services for diabetes.
However, there is often a lack of specialty pulmonary services for COPD in rural communities. As such, rural
patients may need to travel substantially farther than their urban counterparts to receive care. Limited access
to specialty care can negatively impact COPD treatment adherence and disease management. Programs that operate
remotely to engage with patients in hard-to-reach areas could help increase access to care within
resource-constrained settings. For example, the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance's Bridges to Care
Transitions program supports the implementation of remote patient monitoring devices in conjunction with
coaching for patients with COPD. Programs that incentivize specialty providers to practice in rural communities
could increase access to specialty care services for COPD among rural patients. The Rural Healthcare Workforce and Recruitment and Retention for Rural Health Facilities
topic guides have additional information on recruitment and workforce initiatives.
Resources to Learn More
of Respiratory Care Services in Critical Access and Rural Hospitals
A policy brief discussing the availability and importance of respiratory care services and respiratory
therapists in rural settings.
Author(s): Casey, M., Evenson, A., Moscovice, I., & Zhengtian, W.
Organization(s): University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center