There are approximately 1,050 patients awaiting lung transplants in the United States. A major challenge for any organ transplant is finding enough donors who meet the criteria for viable organs. The faster tests can be performed, and the sooner interpretations are shared and confirmed, the higher the potential for finding lungs suited to transplantation.
Remote telepulmonology and sleep medicine diagnostic solutions help address medical staffing shortages impacting patient care and outcomes. Access to board-certified sleep and pulmonary medicine professionals is an area of telemedicine that can significantly improve the performance of organ procurement organizations (OPOs), medical practices, and hospitals. By quickly confirming the viability of lung donors, more lives can be saved.
How Does Telehealth Help Increase Lung Donation?
Telehealth services provide an alternative to traditional in-person diagnostics. Through technology, diagnostic studies and Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) are performed remotely, providing data for OPOs waiting for lung donation. PFTs measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange to help healthcare providers diagnose lung disorders that do not align with ideal donor criteria. The analysis is performed any time of day or night, sending patient data directly to medical staff when it is needed. Pulmonary function and sleep study interpretations are also available, expediting patient care.
Types of Telepulmonology Services
Testing assesses patient lung function and the supply of oxygen to vital organs. Certified specialists perform the following diagnostic pulmonary function tests via telepulmonology services:
- Lung volume test
- Respiratory muscle strength test
- Lung diffusion capacity test
- Altitude simulation tests
- Exercise challenges
- Cardiopulmonary exercise tests
- Methacholine inhalation challenge
- Maximal voluntary volume
- Shunt studies
- Ambulatory oximetry
- Arterial blood gas test
- Body plethysmography
- Exhaled nitric oxide test
Sleep Studies for Respiratory Issues
Diagnostics for respiratory sleep disorders require clinical judgment to properly assess a respiratory condition’s severity. Telemedicine provides access to board-certified specialists who can diagnose respiratory sleep disorders remotely. The tests monitor and measure respiration during sleep to identify sleep-disordered breathing. This helps simplify diagnosis using the following sleep study assessments:
- Split-Night PSG Evaluation
- Two-Night PSG Evaluation
- Diagnostic Overnight Polysomnography (PSG)
- Level 1 Sleep Study
- Level 2 Sleep Study
- Level 3 Sleep Study
- Level 4 Sleep Study
Board-certified medical professionals in sleep and pulmonary medicine provide accurate interpretations. Collaboration between OPOs and specialists ensures accurate assessments and interpretations, increasing the potential for improved outcomes.
Evaluating potential lung transplant donors remotely can help increase the number of lungs available. Traditional methods focus on perceived absolute contraindications to donation, which relies on donors with the following:
- No significant medical history
- Minimal smoking history
- Robust pulmonary function
The potential for transplantation from non-ideal donors based on extended criteria can provide increased donors by weighing the impact of specific risk factors on post-transplantation allograft function. Testing that helps identify patient-specific and organ-specific considerations can expedite the process and help find more viable donors for emergency situations.
Information used to score lung matches includes lab values, test results, and disease diagnosis. Finding acceptable lungs based on active infection, size, and oxygenation requires fast access to testing and results. These tests are possible using telepulmonology and telepathology methods. As well, because lung donation is based on location, finding patients within four to six hours travel time or less of the deceased patient’s location is key. Through remote assessments, donors can be assessed and matched to patients awaiting donations in nearby hospitals.
Donor Management Protocols
Studies show donor lung utilization rates improve with improved donor management protocols. Remote pulmonologists can work with donor ICU teams, providing bedside support that can preserve and optimize lung function.
Benefits of Telepulmonology Services
Telepulmonology Interpretations for spirometry tests are crucial to identifying pulmonary diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Telespirometry and telepulmonology allow pulmonologists to assess test quality and digitally consult with OPOs and practitioners to make informed decisions.
Rural areas tend to have a higher rate of people suffering from lung-related conditions like asthma, a past history of smoking cigarettes, COPD, and other lung health issues. Remote locations lack access to specialized pulmonary testing and benefit from telepulmonology solutions not requiring travel to larger city centers for care. For patients waiting for donors in these areas, remote assessment of lungs within travel range can be approved and transported.
Certified remote specialists circumvent the need for in-house pulmonology and sleep specialists, augmenting teams lacking specialty healthcare services. Assistance in interpreting studies and proper diagnostic tools ensures diagnostics are provided in emergency situations. It is a cost-effective, efficient solution with access to interpretation collaboration in real time.
Increases in lung donations depend on expanding the donor pool by utilizing new strategies that revisit the definition of the ideal donor. Using telemedicine to collaborate at the time of death provides a solution that helps identify acceptable donors while also improving management protocols in the ICU.
Telepulmonology at Specialist Direct
At Specialist Direct, we offer telepulmonology and sleep science solutions. Contact us now by calling (888) 317-0776, and our friendly customer service representatives will help your medical establishment get started.