Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals use harmonicas to help COPD patients

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of Medicare’s target conditions where hospitals must reduce readmissions for patients. Because it can be tough for facilities to get serious cases of COPD under control, some hospitals are trying unconventional methods to improve patients’ lung function – including harmonica lessons. 

Playing the harmonica may have a positive effect on patients’ lung capacity, and it’s already made a big difference in the lives of some COPD sufferers.

Benefits of harmonicas

Several hospitals have recently received attention for sponsoring specific programs where COPD patients play the harmonica together on a regular basis. Holy Name Medical Center, a hospital in New Jersey, had its program chronicled in a Wall Street Journal article.

The hospital’s Harmonicare program offers free harmonica classes each week for patients with COPD and other serious pulmonary issues. Through Harmonicare, patients of all ages bond while learning various songs in a group setting. Many participants report the classes have improved their lung function, helping them breathe more comfortably while performing daily activities.

At the University of Michigan, patients in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program also have the option of attending weekly harmonica classes to strengthen their lungs. A different Wall Street Journal article describes the university’s program, which mostly consists of participants age 65 and older, and how it’s helped patients breathe more easily.

Harmonica programs can be found in other hospitals across the country, including Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Tennessee and the Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida.

While other wind instruments could have similar benefits for patients, harmonicas have distinct advantages. They can be played by both inhaling and exhaling, which can help patients improve their breathing. In addition, harmonicas are portable, so people can practice them anywhere. Plus, the instrument is easy to learn for players of all ages.

Getting started

Since over 15 million Americans have some form of COPD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s critical for hospitals to do what they can to improve outcomes for these patients. Any positive changes can make a big difference for your reimbursement.

Hospitals looking for an inexpensive way to make an impact on their readmissions for COPD patients may want to give harmonica lessons a try. As part of its Harmonicas for Health Program, the COPD Foundation offers kits for those who want to lead a harmonica class and for participants. Its Leader Kit includes a harmonica, instructions and curriculum guides.

Because it’s relatively simple to set up and start a hospital harmonica program, it’s likely the benefits will significantly outweigh the costs – especially when it comes to boosting the value of the care your facility gives to its patients.

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