Vapotherm Access: Improving Quality of Life for COPD Patients
Heather and Mike Markus, Co-Founders
“I’m fighting a war without weapons, in an ever-shrinking world with loss of freedom at most levels, always fearing possible breathlessness.” These are the words of a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patient. Although COPD is treatable, there is no cure for this complex group of lung diseases. It is a progressive disease that slowly compromises a patient’s day-to-day activities and reduces the quality of life. COPD is often associated with multiple co-morbidities such as obesity, cardiac disease, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, and depression.
It’s easy to see how COVID- 19 has only shrunk a COPD patient’s world further: In a published study, COPD patients with COVID- 19 had an allcause mortality rate of 19.5 percent compared to the average of 4.5 percent. Care for many COPD patients becomes costly, complicated, and riskier due to potential COVID- 19 exposure.
What if there was a way to improve the quality of life for these patients and make life easier for providers and payers?
Enter Heather and Mike Markus, two co-founders of Vapotherm Access. “[We] felt called to solve an unsolvable problem by creating a platform for COPD management that is sticky and as patient-centric as possible,” said Mike Markus. “That [platform] must inherently increase patient quality of life and decrease costs for payers and providers. That’s the model. Now, let’s take on the world with it.”
With a two-minute daily checkin and a team of dedicated nurses, Vapotherm Access helps manage COPD patients by establishing the baseline of unique symptoms of each individual patient and looking for changes in daily symptoms. These symptoms include breathlessness, blood oxygen saturation, and the measurement of air flowing from the lungs (peak flow reading) and are submitted on a daily basis. When there is a change in a patient’s symptoms, Vapotherm Access’ nurses will contact the patient to discuss further, notify the clinician, and assist in transmitting prescription(s) to the patient’s preferred pharmacy if required.
We operate at the intersection of patient need, information, and tech – that’s where the value is
Heather speaks quickly and confidently, “We operate at the intersection of patient need, information, and tech – that’s where the value is. We learned that each patient has a unique signature of symptoms that we can quantify and treat. How could you not try to move the needle of their suffering with that information?”
In a recent study, Vapotherm Access also helped reduce all-cause annual inpatient utilization among those studied by 41 percent over the course of one year. In this way, the platform potentially impacts costly fees that hospitals have to pay if they have too many patient readmissions for COPD. But that’s not where the benefit for providers ends. Implementation of COPD remote patient monitoring and telemedicine programs is associated with a reduction in the average length of stay for all-cause hospitalizations by a mean of three days – that’s thousands of dollars saved and a bed available for someone who needs it.
Mike passionately lists the following on his fingers, “Vapotherm Access is a win-win-win scenario: The provider has more time to care for patients in need, payers experience significant cost reduction, hospitals have more beds available, and the patient has a better understanding of their disease, tools to manage it, and direct access to specialty nurses and providers. Winwin-win.”
Heather adds, “Ultimately, it’s about the patient and the patient’s needs. However, we have to build a solution that considers the entire healthcare ecosystem.” Vapotherm Access definitely maintains a patientcentric mindset, with 85 percent of patients studied reporting improved quality of life and 98 percent agreeing that daily symptom reporting helped them better understand and manage their COPD. “Complex lung diseases require complex solutions, and that’s what we are here to provide,” says Mike.