People with lung diseases can better manage and cope with their respiratory disease through a program offered by Altru.

The Respiratory Disease Management program was started by Courtney Caron, manager of respiratory care services at Altru. She said that she started the program because healthcare is focusing more on healthy living and preventing illness in patients before they get the chance to become sick.

According to the World Health Organization, respiratory diseases are “diseases that affect the air passages, including the nasal passages, the bronchi and the lungs.” They can be less serious infections like bronchitis or pneumonia, or more serious conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The program begins with respiratory therapists educating patients on their disease process and going through their medications with them. The respiratory therapists collaborate with the doctors and make sure the patients have had the appropriate testing.

When patients are discharged from the hospital they usually go home with oxygen or other respiratory support. They can also be referred to pulmonary rehabilitation if they qualify. Patients receive a follow-up call within two days of discharge and then weekly calls for a month. Without this program patients may not have access to the support they need. Even just learning about their disease and how to manage it makes an impact on the patient’s life.

The program was started in 2014 by Caron but is continuing to expand now with two more respiratory therapists working with the program. Their goal is to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital.

A great example of why these kinds of programs are important is the case of Mikaela Moore, a college student at the University of South Dakota, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 15. According to the Mayo Clinic, cystic fibrosis is “an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body.” Moore said that she worked with the respiratory therapists at her own hospital that provided her with treatments and weekly function tests similar to the techniques at Altru.

At least one area resident said she thinks the program is a good idea. “Maybe now other hospitals will begin to offer some sort of program similar to the one at Altru. It seems that it is a great way to help keep people with respiratory diseases healthy,” said Kristin Wall, a college student at the University of North Dakota.