‹ Back to COPD: A Focus on High Users
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an incurable and progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. A common cause of COPD is long-term exposure to irritants, including cigarette smoke.
- COPD high users are people who have 3 or more hospitalizations with a total length of stay of 30+ days per year.
- COPD costs the health care system an estimated 1.5 billion dollars annually.
In Alberta, the characteristics of COPD high users are as follows. They
- Are primarily seniors (average age 75);
- Have multiple health conditions (e.g., heart failure, diabetes, depression); and
- Have high health care needs (with an average per year of 5 specialist visits, 14 primary care physician visits, 18 drug claims, 8 emergency department visits and 4 hospitalizations totalling 73 days of stay in hospital).
In Alberta, rates and health care use differ by region. In Alberta’s North Zone,
- The prevalence of COPD is more than 2 times that in the Calgary Zone;
- COPD high users are more frequently hospitalized than in the other zones; and
- COPD high users visit the emergency department more frequently for less urgent care than in the other zones.
The North Zone is located in the northern part of the province and is the largest of the zones. The Calgary Zone is located closer to the southern part of the province and is much smaller than the North Zone.
For more information, see CIHI’s report COPD in Alberta: Examining the Characteristics and Health Care Use of High Users.