Experts from CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP) warn of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with chronic respiratory diseases who need respiratory rehabilitation.
“It is urgent to increase patients’ access to respiratory rehabilitation programs. Telerehabilitation programs can help in this regard. In this new normality, distance rehabilitation can be a useful tool to reach patients who live far from existing centers at the national level”, urges Cristina Jácome, first author of a letter published in the scientific journal Pulmonology.
In Portugal, the percentage of patients with access to respiratory rehabilitation programs is 0.5 to 2%. “This situation was already very worrying, but it got even worse with COVID-19. This is not only due to the interruption of the programs but also because of the increase in the number of patients with respiratory problems”, she explains.
According to the FMUP/CINTESIS researcher, one of the solutions has involved and should continue to involve the implementation of distance rehabilitation sessions. The idea is to combine previous knowledge and experience accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic to take a step forward and proceed with telerehabilitation programs.
There is a Need for Guidelines
Current studies show that it is possible to run these programs with few resources at home and with similar results. According to the researchers, we now need specific guidelines for the implementation of respiratory telerehabilitation, similarly to those that exist for other health areas.
These guidelines, the expert says, “will have to emerge from a joint effort by the supervisory authority and the different scientific and professional societies involved in the provision of this care, anticipating patients’ safety and maintaining the multidisciplinary nature of the teams as “a fundamental pillar”.
By integrating components such as exercise, education, and behavioral changes, respiratory rehabilitation programs improve symptoms and have positive results in physiological and psychosocial domains in people with very prevalent respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.