New protocols make impact for COPD patients

David Howse is working on his recovery at Rosewalk Village.
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Doctors are coordinating an effort to keep patients with COPD from having to check back into the hospital.

Re-admission rates are not good for hospitals or their patients and if patients come back in less than 30 days, their care may not be reimbursed. It's a particular problem for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, but new protocols are making an impact.

"It's scary. It's very scary," said Louis Howse.

Howse can't stand watching her husband of 31 years gasp for air. She sees the fear, he feels it.

"It's scary, because you don't know what is going to happen," said David Howse.

Or how to respond: Should they rush to the hospital, or will it pass?

They are questions COPD patients have often and they are now better answered at Rosewalk Village rehab, with a color-coded guide written by Community East physician Dr. Brian Quick. Green means symptoms are all clear, yellow means caution and red stands for a medical alert.

"We have had individual patients we've been able to treat here at Rosewalk, when their symptoms have flared, we have given them appropriate medication, they have improved here. We have not waited until they are sick, not had to go back to the hospital," said Quick.

It gives the staff confidence.

"Especially as a nurse, when you know you can help someone who you know can go down on you really quick and step in and intervene...intervene right away," said Amy Newcomb. "Typically we can follow Dr. Quick's protocol and call and get extra steroids on board, we can do extra breathing treatments that will prevent him from having to go to the hospital."

But in the meantime, they work on recovery. David is now walking with assistance.

"When he came in, he couldn't walk, he couldn't do anything," Louis Howse said.

His first time on the bike, he had to stop after five minutes.

"Now I can go 30," he said.

David credits his wife.

"She is my secret, because she keeps me going," he said.

"I am a driving force," Louis said.

They have the same goal, head home, not back to the hospital.

"When you go back to the hospital, typically we see that our patients have a lot of setbacks," Newcomb said.

"It's not a place to be...the hospital is no place to be. Home is where we are supposed to be," Louis said.

Rosewalk has similar protocols written by Community East doctors for heart patients.