Empowering people with COPD to manage their condition

The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) project aimed to equip COPD patients with more personalised information about their health conditions so that they could improve the way they manage them. The need for patients suffering from COPD to receive emergency care would then be reduced and help alleviate some of the financial strain on the NHS.

Innovation Unit supported this process, which was led by NHS Redbridge and funded by Health Foundation.  We researched and co-designed a Checklist,  supported its prototyping in GP practices and evaluated its impact.  

COPD costs the NHS £491 million per year and was the sixth most common cause of death in England and Wales in 2010. It also disproportionately affects some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. Though several interventions have been proven to reduce COPD exacerbations and hospital admission rates, they are not always put into practice

As part of a wider project led by NHS Redbridge and funded by the Health Foundation’s SHINE 2011 programme, we looked at how to get patients to self-manage and drive improvements in primary care. We worked closely with patients, carers and clinicians in ten GP practices within the Redbridge area over a period of 12 months. We gathered insights from patients to understand more about the obstacles they faced in engaging with information about their condition.

We found that many COPD patients simply did not know enough about their condition, and what services and options were available to them. We sought to rectify this and empower patients by providing them with personalised information about their condition based on NICE clinical guidelines, a set of NHS recommendations on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific conditions. More personalised information would allow patients to make informed decisions about managing their conditions and, as a result, reduce the crisis periods of exacerbation, and decrease the time spent in acute and emergency care.

The result was the creation of a COPD Care Checklist, which used a straight-forward traffic-light system to indicate where each patient’s care was (or was not) meeting NICE targets. Patients could use this checklist to find out more about their condition and the cost of their care, and could take it with them when they visited their GP as a tool for prompting discussion.

Patients reported that due to the checklist they felt more informed about their disease, were much more aware of what their doctors and nurse should be doing for them, and felt more confident in managing their own condition. Engaged patients led to a shift in the relationship they had with clinicians,enabling them both to become active partners in the management of their condition and to drive improvements in care provision.

The project highlighted the value created by instilling a sense of enquiry in patients through empowering them with basic information, communicated in simple terms, on the quality of their care.

We produced this video, detailing how we designed the checklist and the impact it has had on patients. 


copd project 1280x720 from Innovation Unit on Vimeo.