By Christian Duffin
Using a weather forecasting service as part of the management of COPD patients significantly reduces the frequency of patient attendance at GP practices, but is associated with a significant increase in GP home visits.
Researchers studied outcome measures for patients who used the Met Office's Healthy Outlook forecasting initiative, which helps ensure they have the right medication and receive treatment advice prior to cold spells.
157 patients at three GP practices in Salford received automated phone alerts and advice on managing their condition over a five month period between November 2008 and March 2009.
Home visits rose significantly from 0.05 to 0.92. But the mean numbers of visits to general practice fell from 4.9 to 3.8 and of out-of-hours home visits fell from 0.52 to 0.14.
Hospital admission numbers also increased, though not significantly, and the mean cost per patient of introducing Healthy Outlook increased by £142.
Dr Nawar Bakerly, a consultant chest physician from Salford Royal Foundation NHS Trust, said: ‘The reasons for this shift in consultation patterns are unclear. One hypothesis would be that patients became reluctant to visit primary care practices during periods of cold weather, preferring to call doctors out for home visits.'
Chronic Respiratory Disease, published online 19 January 2011credit g hat, Flickr Weather service 'reduces GP visits'