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Remote care increases quality of life for COPD patients

In collaboration with Karolinska University Hospital, the Swedish Heart and Lung Association and over 20 other organisations, RISE has developed a care method that makes the home a location for more active treatment for patients suffering form chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Almost half a million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients who suffer from severe COPD often experience various levels of oxygen deficiency. This sometimes takes the form of acute changes, or exacerbations, the occurrence of which current care methods have little chance of predicting. 

“All we can offer today is a visit to A&E, telephone support or follow-up visits at fixed intervals, normally every three to six months or annually. When we do meet, there are many things to be conveyed and summarised but if I as a doctor am to be able to offer better care, i need to have a better understanding of how they have been over time. I want to be able to quickly ascertain when a deterioration is about to occur. The more often the patient becomes acutely ill, the worse the prognosis,” says Michael Runold, consultant at Karolinska University Hospital.

Patients homes gets innovative technology

In a research project, the third phase of which began in 2016, a new care method for COPD patients has been tested. This method begins with allowing patients to participate more actively in the ongoing care process from their own homes, which have been equipped with innovative technology. This includes sensors that allow the patient to measure various health indicators and to report them digitally to their healthcare provider. The patient is also able to connect to and communicate with a healthcare operator who acts as a personal contact who acts as a link to other healthcare providers.

This provides the healthcare provider with a better overview of the disease’s development through contact with the care operator and continuous collection of the patients health data.

Michael Runold, who has had clinical responsibility for the project, is now working to introduce the solution more broadly in healthcare. He believes that patients who have participated in the new care method experience increased quality of life.

“They feel that they are being notices and they feel secure. Through closer contact, we learn more about them than previously and find it easier to assess whether changes are on the way. This means that we can act more quickly, for example by administering antibiotics at an earlier stage. This method might well work for all chronically ill patients,” he says.

Methods to find relevant information 

At the same time, Michael Runold points out that COPD patients generate large amounts of data and there is a need to identify even better methods for filtering relevant information. Data has been collected both via various types of sensors, such as accelerometers, scales and pulse sensors and through a range of questionnaires in which the patients describe their health status. This data provides a good basis for the healthcare operator to monitor the patient’s condition. Based on this, various measures can be taken and, in severe cases, the responsible doctor can be involved. In an extension of the project, it may be possible to link the patient’s change in condition to various measures, thereby obtaining a learning AI system where we can see the effects of these changes.

This solutions utilises the healthcare operator as an intelligent filter and presents patients to the responsible doctor on virtual rounds.

Challenging project in many ways

A complex project such as this, with many partners and legal issues surrounding the processing and ownership of patient data and security, does present a challenge. 

“RISE has functioned very well; they are solution-oriented and have helped us to formulate questions that we had no idea we needed to ask,” says Michael Runold.

“Based on their neutral role in the project, RISE has functioned as a facilitator. This has allowed us, together with our partners, to highlight all of the stones littering the path to a broad introduction of a remote healthcare solution. The project has been important to RISE in that we were able to solve a complex of problems through RISE specialists collaborating across boundaries, both internally and externally,” says project manager P-O Sjöberg.


COPD - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - is a disease that affects the lungs and airways. The disease inhibits breathing and reduces stamina. COPD develops slowly over many years and is primarily caused by smoking tobacco. Treatment generally reduces symptoms and the risk of acute exacerbations.

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Per-Olof Sjöberg

Affärs-och innovationsområdeschef

Read more about Per-Olof

Published: 2018-10-26