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Access to Pulmonary Rehab Limited for Many COPD Patients

Overall, 61.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have pulmonary rehabilitation center within a 10-mile radius

elderly woman on oxygen

MONDAY, May 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- About 60 percent of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) have a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) center within a 10-mile radius, according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2021 International Conference, held virtually from May 14 to 19.

Gargya Malla, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues describe geographic variation in availability of PR centers among Medicare beneficiaries with a COPD diagnosis. Data were included for 62,930,784 Medicare beneficiaries, of whom 16.5 percent had COPD.

The researchers identified 1,696 unique PR centers in the United States. The mean distance was 12.3 miles between residents and the nearest PR center. Overall, 61.5, 73.3, 86.6, and 97.2 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had a PR center within 10, 15, 25, and 50 miles, respectively. One-quarter of beneficiaries lived in micropolitan or small town or rural areas, which had an average of one PR center per 4,300 beneficiaries with COPD. Overall, 72.8 percent of beneficiaries with COPD in metropolitan areas had a PR center within 10 miles compared with 38.2 and 17.1 percent in micropolitan and small town/rural areas, respectively.

"The 2017 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute COPD National Action Plan emphasized the important role of pulmonary rehabilitation in COPD patient care, as well as the limited access to pulmonary rehab services," Malla said in a statement. "For the first time, we were able to quantify that limited access. The most important step to improving care for COPD patients is to increase access to pulmonary rehabilitation, a very cost-effective treatment."

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