Primary healthcare provider VillageMD is partnering with the COPD Foundation to identify the “missing millions” thought to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who remain undiagnosed and to improve access to pulmonary rehabilitation.

The collaboration seeks to better identify and treat COPD at Village Medical clinics. A VillageMD subsidiary, Village Medical provides care at traditional free-standing practices and at Walgreens locations. It also offers at-home and telehealth services.

Some 15 million U.S. residents have undiagnosed COPD, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. VillageMD and the foundation will utilize education and outreach to raise awareness about the chronic inflammatory lung disorder and help identify those who haven’t yet been diagnosed. The collaboration also wants to increase the availability of pulmonary rehabilitation, a nonpharmacological therapy that incorporates nutrition, exercise, education, and psychological guidance to ease COPD symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.

“Patients who are living with COPD struggle with ongoing discomfort, breathlessness, and chronic coughs – and we have ways to help improve their quality of life,” Clive Fields, MD, VillageMD’s co-founder, said in a press release. “Through this partnership with the COPD Foundation, we will help our patients and at-risk populations manage or even prevent COPD through trusting patient-provider relationships, comprehensive care teams, and expanded access to rehabilitation resources.”

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While COPD is nearly always preventable and treatable, many people with the disease are unaware they have it. That’s partly because its symptoms, which commonly include cough with mucus, wheezing, and shortness of breath, are often too vague to be accurately diagnosed.

“The best place to address COPD is in primary care, and Village Medical is a respected provider of quality primary care,” said Byron Thomashow, MD, COPD Foundation’s co-founder and chief medical officer. “VillageMD will help the Foundation identify people with undiagnosed COPD and connect them to therapies to help them breathe better and live healthier lives. We look forward to collaborating with Village Medical’s physicians and advanced practice providers to engage our community as we work together to identify the missing millions.”

Thomashow co-authored a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association on early results of the accuracy of the CAPTURE screening tool to identify undiagnosed patients.

According to preliminary data, the questionnaire could identify “clinically significant” COPD in more than 40% of undiagnosed adults with the disorder at that stage who were participating in a clinical trial. The results also suggest the questionnaire may help identify those in primary care who would benefit from a COPD test.

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