Lancet Respir Med 2016 06 13;4(6):473-526. Epub 2016 May 13.
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, and UAB Lung Health Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA; Birmingham VA Medical Center, Birmingham, AL, USA.
The burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the USA continues to grow. Although progress has been made in the the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and care guidelines, whether patients' quality of life is improved will ultimately depend on the actual implementation of care and an individual patient's access to that care. In this Commission, we summarise expert opinion from key stakeholders-patients, caregivers, and medical professionals, as well as representatives from health systems, insurance companies, and industry-to understand barriers to care delivery and propose potential solutions. Health care in the USA is delivered through a patchwork of provider networks, with a wide variation in access to care depending on a patient's insurance, geographical location, and socioeconomic status. Furthermore, Medicare's complicated coverage and reimbursement structure pose unique challenges for patients with chronic respiratory disease who might need access to several types of services. Throughout this Commission, recurring themes include poor guideline implementation among health-care providers and poor patient access to key treatments such as affordable maintenance drugs and pulmonary rehabilitation. Although much attention has recently been focused on the reduction of hospital readmissions for COPD exacerbations, health systems in the USA struggle to meet these goals, and methods to reduce readmissions have not been proven. There are no easy solutions, but engaging patients and innovative thinkers in the development of solutions is crucial. Financial incentives might be important in raising engagement of providers and health systems. Lowering co-pays for maintenance drugs could result in improved adherence and, ultimately, decreased overall health-care spending. Given the substantial geographical diversity, health systems will need to find their own solutions to improve care coordination and integration, until better data for interventions that are universally effective become available.