Providers Share Their Experience with Harmonica Therapy for COPD


At West Penn Hospital, the harmonica program, currently in the pilot phase, aims to demonstrate its benefits in improving respiratory symptoms, reducing exacerbations, and enhancing patients' quality of life.

Harmonica therapy can be an effective and enjoyable part of pulmonary rehabilitation. Becky Jordan, MD, a respiratory therapist at Allegheny Health Network's (AHN) West Penn Hospital, shared her experience as the provider of the harmonica therapy program in an interview with HCPLive.

Also, Kevin Nauer, RN, a COPD coordinator at AHN where he works with transplant patients, explained the future goals of the program and how they’re assessing the patient experience.

HCPLive: What kind of impact does harmonica therapy have on the patients’ mood and motivation toward treatment?

Becky Jordan: Regarding our program, we have implemented a survey at the beginning of each class and halfway through. I ask various questions, and once the patients complete the 16-session pulmonary rehab program (which spans eight weeks but allows for a total of ten weeks), I ask the same questions again.

Becky Jordan, MD

Credit: UPMC

Becky Jordan, MD

Credit: UPMC

I inquire not only about their mood but also their breathing and whether they've noticed any improvements. Specifically, I ask if they believe the harmonica played a role in their progress. The survey responses from all the patients who have completed or are currently participating in the program indicate a significant improvement in their breathing thanks to the harmonica.

HCPLive: Can you describe the current patient population you’re working with in this program?

Becky Jordan: Currently, our harmonica program is exclusive to patients with COPD. However, we hope to expand it to include other lung conditions such as COVID, lung transplant recipients, and sarcoidosis. We believe that the harmonica program could benefit a wide range of lung diseases, not just COPD.

Kevin Nauer: Yes, Becky, that's exactly right. Let me elaborate on this a bit.

As Becky mentioned, this program is currently in the pilot phase for us. Our main goal is to demonstrate the benefits and measure the outcomes for all the patients involved.

We utilize a scoring system called the CAT score, which assesses the patients' symptoms and the level of their shortness of breath.

Kevin Nauer, RN:

Credit: Allegheny Health Center

Kevin Nauer, RN:

Credit: Allegheny Health Center

This measurement is crucial because, as you mentioned, even for asthma patients, experiencing shortness of breath significantly impacts their quality of life. It restricts their ability to perform daily activities and often leads to exacerbations and hospital readmissions.

Therefore, we are always seeking programs that can help reduce exacerbations and provide patients with a tool to manage their shortness of breath. The harmonica program accomplishes this in a non-clinical manner, offering patients the means to control their breathing and prevent readmissions and excessive medication usage.

Additionally, as Becky mentioned, our goal is to expand the program to encompass all our pulmonary patients. Ultimately, we aim to establish this as a standard of care integrated into pulmonary rehabilitation programs and advocate for insurers to cover the costs for their patients. To achieve this, we need to gather solid results that demonstrate the program's effectiveness.

Read more from HCPLive’s Interview with Jordan and Nauer about harmonica therapy as a part of pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with COPD.

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