Telehealth Stress Management Intervention May Reduce COPD Symptoms

Coaching patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on relaxation techniques can improve their quality of life and even ease their symptoms.

Coaching patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) on relaxation techniques through a telehealth intervention can improve their quality of life and even ease their symptoms, according to research from Duke Medicine published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

In the 5-year INSPIRE-II study conducted at Duke University Health System and Ohio State University, psychologists regularly provided stress coping skills training to 147 COPD patients via scheduled phone sessions. For comparison purposes, the psychologists consulted with a separate group of 151 patients on nutrition and medication without coaching them on specific coping techniques.

By the conclusion of the study, those who received information on managing reactions to stressful events reported improvements in depression, anxiety, fatigue, and shortness of breath compared with the control subjects.

“Given the other issues patients face with (COPD), they may not feel as though mental health treatment is a priority,” noted James Blumenthal, PhD, a professor of behavioral medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke, in the press release. “This (model) could be a valuable treatment for patients with other chronic conditions in which traditional mental health services are not easily accessible, or when patients are reluctant to seek such services.”

Although there was no reduction in the number of COPD-related hospitalizations or deaths among the study participants who were trained on deep breathing and other relaxation techniques, the study authors suggested that offering such mental health support could improve the quality of life and physical functioning of patients struggling with the progressive disease.

“COPD is an increasingly important public health problem. It’s a debilitating and distressing illness,” said study author Scott Palmer, MD, MHS, an associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Duke and medical director of the project, in a press release. “Our work has established an innovative and important intervention that could improve patient quality of life. Although it has not translated into improved survival rates, this approach is worthy of further investigation.”