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Sharp Health News

Empowering patients with COPD

Sept. 24, 2018

Empowering patients with COPD

Coach Linda Weady, RCP, with patient, Susan Hair, during a Patient Empowerment session.

Patients often feel fear and uncertainty after being diagnosed with a chronic disease. A new program at Sharp Memorial Hospital helps patients face these emotions while empowering them to take the lead in their care.

The Patient Empowerment Program uses an evidence-based approach to encourage patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to develop positive behavior changes to better manage their illness. COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe, and many patients experience frequent stays in the hospital.

Patients may deal with challenges at home, such as filling their prescriptions on time or knowing when to contact their primary care doctor when symptoms change.

“As the caregiver, we would rather not determine what the issues are and how we are going to fix them,” says Thijs Janssen, RCP-RRT, pulmonary clinical specialist at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “We would like the patient to discover the solutions to their own health challenges so they have an active role in their health care.”

Each patient in the program collaborates with a designated Patient Empowerment coach, who is a program-trained respiratory care practitioner. The coach visits patients up to three times a day while they are in the hospital. Coaches can help patients recognize obstacles that prevent disease management, develop a plan to overcome those challenges, and encourage action.

The program has had a positive impact on patient care. In the past year, hospital readmissions related to COPD dropped from 19 to 11 percent.

“If we allow our patients to discover the motivation for health within themselves, we ‘activate change within,’ which leads to patient empowerment,” says Janssen.

Patients are able to leave the hospital with tools and strategies to help them be successful at home, which may prevent future stays in the hospital.

For the news media: To talk with a Sharp expert about the Patient Empowerment Program for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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