NHS England agreed to fund an evidence based digital solution, MyCOPD app in Leeds to support people living with COPD to enable them to have the confidence, skills and knowledge to manage their condition. There are currently 16,500 people in Leeds on the COPD register. 

What is myCOPD?

myCOPD is an integrated online education, self-management, symptom reporting and pulmonary rehabilitation system.

It helps patients to manage their condition more effectively with a self-management plan and inhaler diary, a COPD Assessment Test (CAT), a pulmonary rehabilitation program, online education tutorials, weather and pollution forecasts, and symptom reporting.

Evidence indicates that disease-specific self-management improves health status and reduces hospital admissions for patients with COPD. Studies in COPD have shown that self-management increases patients’ knowledge and skills required to treat their own illness.

myCOPD is effective because it educates and empowers patients to take more control of their own care. This brings significant improvements in inhaler use and raises the currently low levels of compliance with treatment. Furthermore, the platform interfaces with a clinician-facing dashboard to allow remote monitoring and management of patients at individual and population level. Local healthcare providers and CCGs can use the platform to monitor exacerbation burdens in real time, and review potential inequalities in health care to more effectively plan support services.

The 100% Digital Leeds approach

In Leeds, we are issuing the app for free through Leeds Community Healthcare, Leeds Chest Clinic and we are just starting to implement the app across Primary Care.  Anyone in Leeds with COPD is eligible to receive it.

From a short evaluation last year we found the main barriers to issuing the licenses with patients were patients not having the digital skills to use it, not having a digital device, and/or lack of awareness of the benefits of the app.

Since then we have utilised the resources and experience of our 100% Digital Leeds team within Leeds Libraries who have developed a digital inclusion approach for myCOPD.  Staff have been delivering digital champion training to Group leaders in Breathe Easy groups and Health Professionals.

This has enabled digital champions within the groups to promote the app and provide digital support to members that need it most.  This has increased active use of the app and members’ confidence and digital skills.

Peer support and Digital Champions

Breathe Easy group members bring their digital devices each session and share what features of the app they’ve used that week and use it as a topic of conversation.

This has had a fantastic impact with many of the members gaining more confidence, awareness of the wide range of benefits the app has and it’s given them control over their own condition.  This peer-support in the group has really given members more confidence in using the app and has had a huge impact on the self-management of their condition.

The group are now showing educational videos featured on the app in their group meetings and say “It is such a fantastic app with so much information and resources, we’ve found out so much more about our conditions.  We can then chat about how we’re feeling too, it’s really enhanced our Breathe Easy peer-support group”.

Initially when offered the app many of the Breathe Easy group members were hesitant and felt they didn’t have the skills to use it but the digital champions have broken down the barriers to digital, enabling the members to gain more confidence and support each other in using it.

How the app has benefited Breathe Easy group members

One member of the Middleton Breathe Easy group has found the Mindfulness section within the app very beneficial, he lost his wife earlier in the year and said his anxiety and depression has triggered his condition to get worse at many points throughout the year, using the videos on the app he’s been calming himself down and controlling his breathing better. He said he hasn’t needed to ring 999 and has felt a lot calmer with fewer panic attacks.

One member at the Seacroft Breathe Easy group found by watching the inhaler videos on the app she had been taking her reliever inhalers incorrectly, she now follows the videos when taking her medication and said she feels more confident when taking her medication being able to watch the video as she does it.  She shared this with the other group members and many realised they had been taking their inhaler wrong too, so based on the myCOPD app they are now taking their medication correctly, this has had a huge impact.

Challenges: The main challenge members say, has been in the first instance remembering to use it, adapting to integrating it into their everyday life but so many of the members with support of the Breathe Easy groups are now using it daily.

Opportunities: Using the education videos in Breathe Easy groups, logging their daily medication dosages, members say this has helped with days when they can’t remember if they’ve taken their medication or not.   Using the pulmonary rehab course on the app has meant many members on waiting lists for PR or who haven’t had it for a while have been able to do this at home in their own time.

Next steps

We are continuing to evaluate this digital inclusion approach alongside the myCOPD implementation across Leeds, and continue to work to overcome challenges and barriers and celebrate the success stories.  We’re evaluating whether patients make fewer GP appts/visits to A&E as a result of using the app and what features they find vital in self-managing their conditions.

As we implement the app further through primary care we will continue to work with GP practices, third sector organisations and groups across Leeds to train digital champions to encourage digital support for patients who receive the app.  Having this digital support has been vital to the success and active use of the myCOPD app.

We currently have 168 licenses issued across Leeds, with more GP practices being set up over the coming weeks with the current time of COVID-19 being even more crucial to enabling patients to access this self-management app with Breathe Easy Groups and Pulmonary Rehab classes not running.