Impact of an Electronic Medical Record Screening Tool and Therapist-Driven Protocol on Length of Stay and Hospital Readmission for COPD

Respir Care. 2016 Sep;61(9):1137-43. doi: 10.4187/respcare.04588. Epub 2016 Jul 5.


Background: In the United States, care for COPD patients is frequently delivered by respiratory therapists (RTs). After implementing a therapist-driven protocol for COPD treatment, we sought to improve identification of COPD patients. We hypothesized that using an electronic medical record screening tool to identify subjects with COPD combined with a therapist-driven protocol would positively impact length of stay (LOS) and readmission rates.

Methods: Utilizing the electronic medical record to search the provider's admission notes for the terms COPD/Asthma, a report was generated. Subjects already receiving RT services were removed. An RT evaluated identified subjects using a therapist-driven protocol combining clinical assessment and FEV1 to calculate an air-flow obstruction score. Scores ≥7 received 24 h of bronchodilator therapy by RTs. Scores <7 received assessment by RTs but bronchodilator therapy administered by nursing staff. An RT performed medication reconciliation and education for both groups. ICD-9 discharge codes identified primary and secondary diagnoses of COPD. LOS and 30-d readmission rates were measured for a 14-month period. Respiratory-triggered rapid response data were also collected.

Results: The pre-intervention period was from December 2013 to June 2014, and the post-intervention period was from July 2014 to January 2015. There were 142 subjects in total, 68 pre-intervention and 74 post-intervention. For primary COPD, mean LOS decreased from 4.37 to 2.96 d (P = .10), and 30-d readmission rates decreased from 13.6 to 6.1%. Respiratory-triggered rapid response data were as follows: The pre-intervention span was from January 2014 to June 2014, and post-intervention was from July 2014 to December 2015. For primary COPD, there were 61 pre-intervention subjects and 63 post-intervention with a decrease in respiratory-triggered rapid responses from 21 pre-intervention (34.4%) to 8 post-intervention (12.7%) (P = .004). For secondary COPD (1,168 pre-intervention, 1,267 post-intervention), there was a change from 318 (27.2%) pre-intervention to 296 (23.4%) post-intervention (P = .03).

Conclusion: Utilization of the electronic medical record to identify subjects with likely COPD combined with a therapist-driven protocol directed by RT assessment was associated with a trend toward decreased LOS and reduction in readmission rates. There was a significant reduction of respiratory-triggered rapid responses in subjects with a primary diagnosis of COPD.

Keywords: COPD; electronic medical record screening; therapist-driven protocol.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis
  • Length of Stay* / trends
  • Medication Reconciliation
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Readmission* / trends
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Bronchodilator Agents