UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Pulmonary Rehabilitation in a Post-COVID-19 World : Telerehabilitation as a New Standard in Patients with COPD Tsutsui, Mai; Gerayeli, Firoozeh; Sin, Don


Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is effective in reducing symptoms and improving health status, and exercise tolerance of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic has greatly impacted PR programs and their delivery to patients. Owing to fears of viral transmission and resultant outbreaks of COVID-19, institution-based PR programs have been forced to significantly reduce enrolment or in some cases completely shut down during the pandemic. As a majority of COPD patients are elderly and have multiple co-morbidities including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, they are notably susceptible to severe complications of COVID-19. As such, patients have been advised to stay at home and avoid social contact to the maximum extent possible. This has increased patients’ vulnerability to physical deconditioning, depression, and social isolation. To address this major gap in care, some traditional hospital or clinic-centered PR programs have converted some or all of their learning contents to homebased telerehabilitation during the pandemic. There are, however, some significant barriers to this approach that have impeded its implementation in the community. These include variable access and use of technology (by patients), a lack of standardization of methods and tools for evaluation of the program, and inadequate training and resources for health professionals in optimally delivering telerehabilitation to patients. There is a pressing need for high-quality studies on these modalities of PR to enable the successful implementation of PR at home and via teleconferencing technologies. Here, we highlight the importance of telerehabilitation of patients with COPD in the post-COVID world and discuss various strategies for clinical implementation.

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