Harnessing Digital Health to Objectively Assess Functional Performance in Veterans with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

He Zhou, Catherine Park, Olia Poursina, Mohsen Zahiri, Hung Nguyen, Ilse Torres Ruiz, Christina K. Nguyen, Mon S. Bryant, Amir Sharafkhaneh, Venkata D. Bandi, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: An early detection of impaired functional performance is critical to enhance symptom management for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, conventional functional measures based on walking assessments are often impractical for small clinics where the available space to administrate gait-based test is limited. This study examined the feasibility and effectiveness of an upper-extremity frailty meter (FM) in identifying digital measures of functional performance and assessing frailty in COPD patients. Methods: Forty-eight patients with COPD (age = 68.8 ± 8.5 years, body mass index [BMI] = 28.7 ± 5.8 kg/m2) and 49 controls (age = 70.0 ± 3.0 years, BMI = 28.7 ± 6.1 kg/m2) were recruited. All participants performed a 20-s repetitive elbow flexion-extension test using a wrist-worn FM sensor. Functional performance was quantified by FM metrics, including speed (slowness), range of motion (rigidity), power (weakness), flexion and extension time (slowness), as well as speed and power reduction (exhaustion). Conventional functional measures, including timed-up-and-go test, gait and balance tests, and 5 repetition sit-to-stand test, were also performed. Results: Compared to controls, COPD patients exhibited deteriorated performances in all conventional functional assessments (d = 0.64-1.26, p < 0.010) and all FM metrics (d = 0.45-1.54, p < 0.050). FM metrics had significant agreements with conventional assessment tools (|r| = 0.35-0.55, p ≤ 0.001). FM metrics efficiently identified COPD patients with pre-frailty and frailty (d = 0.82-2.12, p < 0.050). Conclusion: This study proposes the feasibility of using a 20-s repetitive elbow flexion-extension test and wrist-worn sensor-derived frailty metrics as an alternative and practical solution to evaluate functional performance in COPD patients. Its simplicity and low risk for test administration may also facilitate its application for remote patient monitoring. Furthermore, in settings where the administration of walking test is impractical, for example, when ventilator support is needed or space is limited, FM may be used as an alternative solution. Future studies are encouraged to use the FM to quantitatively monitor the progressive decline in functional performance and quantify outcomes of rehabilitation interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Frailty phenotypes
  • Functional performance
  • Upper-extremity frailty meter
  • Wearable technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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