Smoke inhalation isn’t healthy for any of us but short-term exposure for certain vulnerable patients can be particularly severe. What can health providers do during wildfire seasons to proactively protect their patients?
1. Encourage Early Action
Wildfire smoke travels far and wide extremely rapidly, which means individuals can be at risk, even if they are far from the original fire. BreezoMeter provides an accurate picture of air quality for any location, meaning patients can keep tabs on the reality of their specific situation (even while on the move!) and take measures to protect their health from declining air quality early on. This might involve leaving the area early, closing windows, and activating air purifiers.
Apple Fire in California (Aug 2020)
2. Provide Tailored Insights
By integrating wildfire and air quality intelligence into connected health solutions like patient apps, healthcare providers can correlate their patient’s symptoms with actual environmental exposure. For patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD in particular, this additional environmental context helps providers to refine the care and treatment they give, based on patient-specific information and objective insights.
3. Deliver Online Care when Face to Face Contact is Difficult
When combined with remote symptom monitoring, personalized air quality monitoring and health recommendations provide a helpful treatment option when face-to-face contact is difficult or impossible – like during a wildfire crisis.
As an example, the UK-based digital health company My mhealth integrates air quality insights to support their remote patient monitoring apps – myCOPD & myHeart.
4. Empower Patients to Learn More
Like the majority of consumers, patients respond best to healthcare treatments and information that feel personalized. A growing body of research has found a connection between patient involvement in their own care and better health outcomes at lower costs.
By helping patients understand the true health impact of smoke inhalation and poor air quality exposure for their health, they become more aware of their personal risk factors and learn to modify their behavior in positive ways.
5. Study Impact of Smoke Exposure Over Time
In addition to helping individuals manage exposure to wildfire smoke, accurate air quality insights in this context can double up as a powerful data input for clinical research. As wildfire seasons become longer, more scientists are looking to understand the health risks associated with wildfire smoke inhalation compared to other forms of air pollution.
One study examined hospitalizations of Medicare patients 65 years or older on days with high PM2.5 exposure levels – they found 6.9% more hospitalizations due to asthma, wheezing, and bronchitis compared to clear days!