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Editorials

Last 50 Editorials

(Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Not-For-Profit Price Gouging
Some Clinics Are More Equal than Others
Blue Shield of California Announces Help for Independent Doctors-A
   Warning
Medicare for All-Good Idea or Political Death?
What Will Happen with the Generic Drug Companies’ Lawsuit: Lessons from
   the Tobacco Settlement
The Implications of Increasing Physician Hospital Employment
More Medical Science and Less Advertising
The Need for Improved ICU Severity Scoring
A Labor Day Warning
Keep Your Politics Out of My Practice
The Highest Paid Clerk
The VA Mission Act: Funding to Fail?
What the Supreme Court Ruling on Binding Arbitration May Mean to
   Healthcare 
Kiss Up, Kick Down in Medicine 
What Does Shulkin’s Firing Mean for the VA? 
Guns, Suicide, COPD and Sleep
The Dangerous Airway: Reframing Airway Management in the Critically Ill 
   Linking Performance Incentives to Ethical Practice 
Brenda Fitzgerald, Conflict of Interest and Physician Leadership 
Seven Words You Can Never Say at HHS
Equitable Peer Review and the National Practitioner Data Bank 
Fake News in Healthcare 
Beware the Obsequious Physician Executive (OPIE) but Embrace Dyad
   Leadership 
Disclosures for All 
Saving Lives or Saving Dollars: The Trump Administration Rescinds Plans to
   Require Sleep Apnea Testing in Commercial Transportation Operators
The Unspoken Challenges to the Profession of Medicine
EMR Fines Test Trump Administration’s Opposition to Bureaucracy 
Breaking the Guidelines for Better Care 
Worst Places to Practice Medicine 
Pain Scales and the Opioid Crisis 
In Defense of Eminence-Based Medicine 
Screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the Transportation Industry—
   The Time is Now 
Mitigating the “Life-Sucking” Power of the Electronic Health Record 
Has the VA Become a White Elephant? 
The Most Influential People in Healthcare 
Remembering the 100,000 Lives Campaign 
The Evil That Men Do-An Open Letter to President Obama 
Using the EMR for Better Patient Care 
State of the VA
Kaiser Plans to Open "New" Medical School 
CMS Penalizes 758 Hospitals For Safety Incidents 
Honoring Our Nation's Veterans 
Capture Market Share, Raise Prices 
Guns and Sleep 
Is It Time for a National Tort Reform? 
Time for the VA to Clean Up Its Act 
Eliminating Mistakes In Managing Coccidioidomycosis 
A Tale of Two News Reports 
The Hands of a Healer 
The Fabulous Fours! Annual Report from the Editor 
A Veterans Day Editorial: Change at the VA? 

 

For complete editorial listings click here.

The Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care welcomes submission of editorials on journal content or issues relevant to the pulmonary, critical care or sleep medicine.

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Entries in Veterans Administration (14)

Thursday
Jul112013

Treatment after a COPD Exacerbation

A couple of years ago I was consulted about a patient at the Phoenix VA who had been admitted for the third time for a COPD exacerbation in two months. Each time the patient was treated with inhaled short-acting bronchodilators, corticosteroids and an antibiotic; rapidly improved; and was discharged after only one or two days in the hospital.  The discharge medications were albuterol, ipratropium, and rapidly tapering doses of prednisone. Apparently, no consideration was given to adding long-acting beta agonists (LABA), long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA), and/or inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). These later medications have been shown to reduce exacerbations in most studies (1,2).

I was reminded of this incident by a recent article published by Melzer et al. in the Journal of Internal Medicine (3). The authors examined 2760 patients with exacerbations of COPD admitted to hospitals in the VA Northwest Health Network (VISN 20) to determine if a LABA and/or glucocorticoid were prescribed at discharge. These medications reduce exacerbations and the best predictor of a future exacerbation is a history of exacerbations (1,2,4). Of the 2760 patients 93% were not receiving a LABA or an ICS at the time of their exacerbation. Of this 93%, two-thirds of the patients had no change in therapy after their exacerbation. The authors state that “among patients treated for COPD exacerbations, there were missed opportunities to potentially reduce subsequent exacerbations by adding treatments known to modify exacerbation risk”. The authors go on to suggest that the VA could develop a Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) program to improve delivery of care for some chronic conditions.

So why did the patient at the Phoenix VA and 2/3 of the patients in VISN 20 not receive a LABA, LAMA and/or inhaled corticosteroid after their exacerbations as recommended by the GOLD and ATS guidelines? Are the doctors in the Pacific Northwest and Phoenix unaware of the guidelines as the article and its accompanying editorial imply (5)? The answer probably lies elsewhere. First, the VA does not use the GOLD or ATS guidelines but has developed their own guidelines (6). These guidelines specifically mention consideration of the addition of inhaled corticosteroids and a LAMA but make no mention of a LABA. Rather than encouraging use of these medications, programs were created at the Phoenix VA which restricted Veterans’ access to these more expensive medications. The VA administration empowered the pharmacy to make unilateral decisions based on fiscal considerations with inadequate expert clinician input. These include a requirement to refer all patients for pulmonary consultation for long-acting bronchodilator therapy. This overloaded the pulmonary clinics with patients that did not necessarily need to be seen. In addition, there was a requirement for a trial of ipratropium before beginning tiotropium which took multiple visits further overloading the clinics.

This is another example of administrators meddling in clinical care only to have it blow up in their face and cause something else to go awry wasting money. In this case, the low use of long-acting bronchodilators likely led to an increase in admissions for exacerbation of COPD which are a major determinant of the costs of COPD care (7). Ignorance of the providers is blamed and another program to correct the harm caused by the initial blunder is created. Another example is the control of blood sugar in the ICU. After pushing for tight control of blood sugar for several years, the VA Inpatient Evaluation Center (IPEC) seamlessly converted their program to one examining hypoglycemia when tight control resulting in hypoglycemia was found to be harmful with the publication of the NICE-SUGAR study (8,9).

A QUERI program examining whether a LABA and/or corticosteroid was prescribed at discharge for a COPD patient does not need to be created. What needs to be done is to allow the physicians in the Pacific Northwest and Phoenix to use their best skills and judgment in caring for the patients without interference. If something must be measured, readmissions for exacerbation of COPD could be considered but should be part of a comprehensive program that measures outcomes such as mortality, length of stay, and morbidity. Otherwise, administrative blunders to correct past mistakes will continue.

Richard A. Robbins, M.D.*

References

  1. Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management and Prevention of COPD, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) 2010. Available at: http://www.goldcopd.org/Guidelines/guidelines-resources.html  (accessed 7/7/13)
  2. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Weinberger SE, Hanania NA, Criner G, van der Molen T, Marciniuk DD, Denberg T, Schünemann H, Wedzicha W, MacDonald R, Shekelle P; American College of Physicians; American College of Chest Physicians; American Thoracic Society; European Respiratory Society. Diagnosis and management of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a clinical practice guideline update from the American College of Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and European Respiratory Society. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(3):179-91. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Melzer AC, Feemster LM, Uman JE, Ramenofsky DH, Au DH. Missing potential opportunities to reduce repeat COPD exacerbations. J Gen Intern Med. 2013;28(5):652-9. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Hurst JR, Vestbo J, Anzueto A, Locantore N, Müllerova H, Tal-Singer R, Miller B, Lomas DA, Agusti A, Macnee W, Calverley P, Rennard S, Wouters EF, Wedzicha JA; Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) Investigators. Susceptibility to exacerbation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. N Engl J Med 2010;363:1128-38. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  5. Jubelt LE. Capsule Commentary on Melzer et.al., Missing Potential Opportunities to Reduce Repeat COPD Exacerbations. J Gen Intern Med. 2013;28(5):708. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. The Management of COPD Working Group. VA/DOD clinical practice guideline for management of outpatient chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Available at: http://www.healthquality.va.gov/copd/copd_20.pdf (accessed 7/7/13)
  7. Hilleman DE, Dewan N, Malesker M, Friedman M. Pharmacoeconomic evaluation of COPD. Chest. 2000;118(5):1278-85. [PubMed] [PubMed]
  8. Falciglia M, Freyberg RW, Almenoff PL, D'Alessio DA, Render ML. Hyperglycemia-related mortality in critically ill patients varies with admission diagnosis. Crit Care Med. 2009;37(12):3001-9. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  9. NICE-SUGAR Study Investigators, Finfer S, Chittock DR, Su SY, Blair D, Foster D, Dhingra V, Bellomo R, Cook D, Dodek P, Henderson WR, Hébert PC, Heritier S, Heyland DK, McArthur C, McDonald E, Mitchell I, Myburgh JA, Norton R, Potter J, Robinson BG, Ronco JJ. Intensive versus conventional glucose control in critically ill patients. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(13):1283-97. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

*The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care or the Arizona, New Mexico or Colorado Thoracic Societies.  

Reference as: Robbins RA. Treatment after a COPD exacerbation. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2013;7(1):28-30. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc089-13 PDF

Friday
Nov252011

Mismanagement at the VA: Where’s the Problem? 

Reference as: Robbins RA. Mismanagement at the VA: where's the problem? Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2011;3:151-3. (Click here for a PDF version of the editorial)

At the time I retired from my last Veterans Administration (VA) position there was an ongoing investigation into alleged mismanagement of non-VA fee care funds at this hospital. The VA Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) report of this investigation was released on November 8, 2011 (1). The VAOIG report is reflective of a wide-ranging problem of administrators making what are fundamentally clinical decisions and not allowing clinicians to determine the best allocation of resources - issues that are not unique to the VA. 

The VAOIG’s report substantiated that the hospital experienced a budget shortfall of $11.4 million in 2010, 20 percent of the 2010 Non-VA Fee Care Program funds. According to the VAOIG report highlights, “The shortfall occurred because the hospital lacked effective pre-authorization procedures for Long Term Acute Hospital fee care. Additionally, staff did not monitor inpatient fee care patients to determine if the patients could receive services in a VA facility”. As someone who spent about 1 week a month in the intensive care unit and cared for several of the patients who ultimately were transferred to receive long term acute hospital fee care, these recommendations seem inconsistent with the facts.

The purpose of the Non-VA Fee Care Program is to assist Veterans who cannot easily receive care at a VA medical facility. This program pays the medical care costs of patients to non-VA providers when the VA is unable to provide specific treatments or provide treatment economically. To initiate non-VA care, clinicians sent a consult form to a physician designated by the chief of staff for review. Almost all of the fee care claims were approved. The single, approving physician received hundreds of requests per week and lacked both the expertise and time to perform a detailed review of the requests.

Among the problems singled out by the VAOIG’s report was the use of long term acute care for the purposes of ventilator weaning. The report suggests that there was no determination of whether the VA could provide these services. To my knowledge there was no VA facility that provided long term ventilator care within 100 miles of the hospital.

It is known that predicting the ability to wean a patient from long-term mechanical ventilation is imprecise (2). According to the VAOIG’s report “…30 days was a reasonable limit to attempt ventilator weaning. If the veteran had not weaned in that time, then the [hospital] needed to re-evaluate the appropriateness of continued weaning and consider alternative medical options.” Thirty days is considerably shorter than the 3 months recommended by a collective task force from the American College of Chest Physicians; the American Association for Respiratory Care; and the American College of Critical Care Medicine (2).

The VAOIG report estimated that overspending on long term acute care resulted in $4.5 million of the nearly 12 million dollar in over spending. Although it is not clear how this figure was calculated, it is almost certainly an over estimate of the potential cost savings since these patients require care whether in an acute care facility for weaning or a long-term care facility and is based on a 30 day period rather than a 90 day period of weaning

Later in the VAOIG report two additional problems are identified which more likely explain the overspending: inadequate budgeting and inadequate accounting. Not knowing how much is being spent from an inadequate budget is a problem, but there is also another, more fundamental problem not identified in the VAOIG’s report. Why was there no VA acute care or long term facility available to care for these patients? There is certainly sufficient medical expertise within the VA to perform these services. It seems likely that a comparatively small investment in an appropriate facility could have resulted in considerable savings.

There is no convincing evidence presented in the VAOIG’s report that the non-VA services requested were inappropriate. Yet, the VAOIG’s report suggests replacing the lone, over-worked, part-time clinician with inadequate expertise with a full-time person or committee. These approving official(s) will probably also lack the expertise necessary to make these clinical decisions and do little more than harass clinicians for paperwork and documentation while inadequately reviewing the charts and avoiding responsibility for any decisions.

In response to the discovery of the shortfall, the hospital initiated several interim approaches to save money including a hiring freeze. This seems reasonable, but in the middle of the hiring freeze, administration did hire an assistant director into a newly created position. However, clinical personnel who had left or retired were not replaced. Second, the chief of staff who oversaw this shortfall placed a measure on the clinicians’ performance plan that non-VA fee basis spending be reduced compared to the previous year. Yet, according to the VAOIG’s report, the problem appeared to be inadequate budgeting and accounting rather than overspending. Not surprisingly, morale suffered and was reflected in an employee survey which ranked in the bottom 10% of the VA in 5 of the 6 categories surveyed. In order to improve these scores, the chief of staff charged the chiefs of each service with improving morale when the problem appeared to lie a little closer to home. Lastly, the hospital determined that chronic ventilator patients be held in the ICU in order to save non-VA fee expenses. The cost of this decision is that when the ICU is full, that VA patients needing ICU care are transferred to another hospital, a cost paid by the VA. Whether this administrative decision will save money is unknown.

This VAOIG’s report fails to emphasize the major problems, i.e., failure of the administration to work with the clinicians, inadequate budgeting and inadequate accounting. Rather than suggesting reasonable solutions, the VAOIG’s report rewards these administrative blunders by offering increasing administrative control over clinicians and apparently increasing administrative personnel as solutions. These recommendations do nothing other than waste resources which could be used for care of Veteran patients.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

 

References

  1. http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-11-02280-23.pdf (accessed 11/17/11).
  2. MacIntyre NR, Cook DJ, Ely EW Jr, Epstein SK, Fink JB, Heffner JE, Hess D, Hubmayer RD, Scheinhorn DJ; American College of Chest Physicians; American Association for Respiratory Care; American College of Critical Care Medicine. Evidence-based guidelines for weaning and discontinuing ventilatory support: a collective task force facilitated by the American College of Chest Physicians; the American Association for Respiratory Care; and the American College of Critical Care Medicine. Chest 2001;120:375S-95S.

Editor’s note: Since this budget shortfall came to light, the hospital director retired for medical reasons; the chief of staff was transferred to another VISN as VISN chief medical officer; and the associate director has left the hospital.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are the opinions of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care or the Arizona Thoracic Society.

Tuesday
Nov012011

Why Is It So Difficult to Get Rid of Bad Guidelines? 

Reference as: Robbins RA. Why is it so difficult to get rid of bad guidelines? Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2011;3:141-3. (Click here for a PDF version of the editorial)

My colleagues and I recently published a manuscript in the Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care examining compliance with the Joint Commission of Healthcare Organization (Joint Commission, JCAHO) guidelines (1). Compliance with the Joint Commission’s acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and surgical process of care measures had no correlation with traditional outcome measures including mortality rates, morbidity rates, length of stay and readmission rates. In other words, increased compliance with the guidelines was ineffectual at improving patient centered outcomes. Most would agree that ineffectual outcomes are bad. The data was obtained from the Veterans Healthcare Administration Quality and Safety Report and included 485,774 acute medical/surgical discharges in 2009 (2). This data is similar to the Joint Commission’s own data published in 2005 which showed no correlation between guideline compliance and hospital mortality and a number of other publications which have failed to show a correlation with the Joint Commission’s guidelines and patient centered outcomes (3-8). As we pointed out in 2005, the lack of correlation is not surprising since several of the guidelines are not evidence based and improvement in performance has usually been because of increased compliance with these non-evidence based guidelines (1,9).

The above raises the question that if some of the guidelines are not evidence based, and do not seem to have any benefit for patients, why do they persist? We believe that many of the guidelines were formulated with the concept of being easy and cheap to measure and implement, and perhaps more importantly, easy to demonstrate an improvement in compliance. In other words, the guidelines are initiated more to create the perception of an improvement in healthcare, rather than an actual improvement. For example in the pneumonia guidelines, one of the performance measures which have markedly improved is administration of pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumococcal vaccine is easy and cheap to administer once every 5 years to adult patients, despite the evidence that it is ineffective (10). In contrast, it is probably not cheap and certainly not easy to improve pneumonia mortality rates, morbidity rates, length of stay and readmission rates.

To understand why these ineffectual guidelines persist, one needs to understand who benefits from guideline implementation and compliance. First, organizations which formulate the guidelines, such as the Joint Commission, benefit. Implementing a program that the Joint Commission can claim shows an improvement in healthcare is self-serving, but implementing a program which provides no benefit would be politically devastating. At a time when some hospitals are opting out of Joint Commission certification, and when the Joint Commission is under pressure from competing regulatory organizations, the Joint Commission needs to show their programs produce positive results.

Second, programs to ensure compliance with the guidelines directly employ an increasingly large number of personnel within a hospital. At the last VA hospital where I was employed, 26 full time personnel were employed in quality assurance. Since compliance with guidelines to a large extent accounts for their employment, the quality assurance nurses would seem to have little incentive to question whether these guidelines really result in improved healthcare. Rather, their job is to ensure guideline compliance from both hospital employees and nonemployees who practice within the hospital.

Lastly, the administrators within a hospital have several incentives to preserve the guideline status quo. Administrators are often paid bonuses for ensuring guideline compliance. In addition to this direct financial incentive, administrators can often lobby for increases in pay since with the increase number of personnel employed to ensure guideline compliance, the administrators now supervise more employees, an important factor in determining their salary. Furthermore, success in improving compliance, allows administrators to advertise both themselves and their hospital as “outstanding”.

In addition, guidelines allow administrative personnel to direct patient care and indirectly control clinical personnel. Many clinical personnel feel uneasy when confronted with "evidence-based" protocols and guidelines when they are clearly not “evidence-based”. Such discomfort is likely to be more intense when the goals are not simply to recommend a particular approach but to judge failure to comply as evidence of substandard or unsafe care. Reporting a physician or a nurse for substandard care to a licensing board or on a performance evaluation may have devastating consequences.

There appears to be a discrepancy between an “outstanding” hospital as determined by the Joint Commission guidelines and other organizations. Many hospitals which were recognized as top hospitals by US News & World Report, HealthGrades Top 50 Hospitals, or Thomson Reuters Top Cardiovascular Hospitals were not included in the Joint Commission list. Absent are the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University Medical Center, and Massachusetts General.  Academic medical centers, for the most part, were noticeably absent. There were no hospitals listed in New York City, none in Baltimore and only one in Chicago. Small community hospitals were overrepresented and large academic medical centers were underrepresented in the report. However, consistent with previous reports, we found that larger predominately urban, academic hospitals had better all cause mortality, surgical mortality and surgical morbidity compared to small, rural hospitals (1).

Despite the above, I support both guidelines and performance measures, but only if they clearly result in improved patient centered outcomes. Formulating guidelines where the only measure of success is compliance with the guideline should be discouraged. We find it particularly disturbing that we can easily find a hospital’s compliance with a Joint Commission guideline but have difficulty finding the hospital’s standardized mortality rates, morbidity rates, length of stay and readmission rates, measures which are meaningful to most patients. The Joint Commission needs to develop better measures to determine hospital performance. Until that time occurs, the “quality” measures need to be viewed as what they are-meaningless measures which do not serve patients but serve those who benefit from their implementation and compliance.

Richard A. Robbins, M.D.

Editor, Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Robbins RA, Gerkin R, Singarajah CU. Relationship between the veterans healthcare administration hospital performance measures and outcomes. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2011;3:92-133.
  2. Available at: http://www.va.gov/health/docs/HospitalReportCard2010.pdf (accessed 9-28-11).
  3. Williams SC, Schmaltz SP, Morton DJ, Koss RG, Loeb JM. Quality of care in U.S. hospitals as reflected by standardized measures, 2002-2004. N Engl J Med. 2005;353:255-64.
  4. Werner RM, Bradlow ET. Relationship between Medicare's hospital compare performance measures and mortality rates. JAMA 2006;296:2694-702.
  5. Peterson ED, Roe MT, Mulgund J, DeLong ER, Lytle BL, Brindis RG, Smith SC Jr, Pollack CV Jr, Newby LK, Harrington RA, Gibler WB, Ohman EM. Association between hospital process performance and outcomes among patients with acute coronary syndromes. JAMA 2006;295:1912-20.
  6. Fonarow GC, Yancy CW, Heywood JT; ADHERE Scientific Advisory Committee, Study Group, and Investigators. Adherence to heart failure quality-of-care indicators in US hospitals: analysis of the ADHERE Registry. Arch Int Med 2005;165:1469-77.
  7. Wachter RM, Flanders SA, Fee C, Pronovost PJ. Public reporting of antibiotic timing in patients with pneumonia: lessons from a flawed performance measure. Ann Intern Med 2008;149:29-32.
  8. Stulberg JJ, Delaney CP, Neuhauser DV, Aron DC, Fu P, Koroukian SM.  Adherence to surgical care improvement project measures and the association with postoperative infections. JAMA. 2010;303:2479-85.
  9. Robbins RA, Klotz SA. Quality of care in U.S. hospitals. N Engl J Med. 2005;353:1860-1.
  10. Padrnos L, Bui T, Pattee JJ, Whitmore EJ, Iqbal M, Lee S, Singarajah CU, Robbins RA. Analysis of overall level of evidence behind the Institute of Healthcare Improvement ventilator-associated pneumonia guidelines. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2011;3:40-8.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are the opinions of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care or the Arizona Thoracic Society.

Wednesday
Feb162011

COPD, COOP and BREATH at the VA 

Reference as: Robbins RA. COPD, COOP and BREATH at the VA. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2011;2:27-28. (Click here for PDF version)

The February 2011 Pulmonary Journal Club reviews a study by Rice and colleagues (1) of high-risk COPD patients (click here for Pulmonary Journal Club). This review was authored by Kevin Park who also authored an ACP Journal Club review (2). In Rice’s study a single educational session, an individualized care plan, and monthly case-manager telephone calls, resulted in a 41% decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room visits and a nonsignficant trend toward decreased mortality.

Rice’s study was supported and conducted in the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 23 (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas). The COPD patients in this study were recruited and followed primarily using the VA computer system. The study represents a potential model of data-based management leading to improved patient outcomes. The authors; Robert Petzel MD, then VISN 23 Director (now Veterans Healthcare Administration Undersecretary); and Janet Murphy, then VISN Primary Care Service Line CEO (now VISN 23 Director) are to be congratulated for their insight into conducting and supporting this study. Unfortunately, many VA administrators are not as far-sighted and restrict or place unreasonable obstacles to investigators’ access to VA data. VA administrators at the National, VISN and local levels should be encouraged to follow Dr. Petzel’s and Ms. Murphy’s lead in utilizing the VA computer system to conduct studies such as Rice’s.

At the time this study was ongoing, a similar study was also being conducted through the VA Cooperative studies program known as Bronchitis and Emphysema Advice and Training to Reduce Hospitalization (BREATH) trial (3). Like Rice’s study, the BREATH study incorporated self-management education, an action plan, and case-management to decrease the risk of hospitalizations due to COPD. However, in contrast to Rice’s study, the patients in BREATH had all been hospitalized within the past year and likely had more severe underlying COPD. Although this multi-center, randomized study which was planned for 5 years was on target for recruitment (425 subjects), it was cancelled after about 2 years. The reasons for the cancellation were never shared with the site investigators (of which this editor was one). It seems unlikely that a behavior study such as BREATH would result in a significant medically adverse outcome to mandate study cancellation. However, if such an outcome occurred in BREATH, it would throw the largely positive results of Rice’s study into question.

Richard A. Robbins MD, Editor, SWJPCC

References

1. Rice KL, Dewan N, Bloomfield HE, Grill J, Schult TM, Nelson DB, Kumari S, Thomas M, Geist LJ, Beaner C, Caldwell M, Niewoehner DE. Disease Management Program for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2010;182:890-6.

2. Park K, Robbins RA. ACP Journal Club: A COPD disease management program reduced a composite of hospitalizations or emergency department visits.  ACP Journal Club 2011;154:JC3-5.

3. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00395083?order=1. Accessed 2/9/2011.

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