News From CHEST Physician®

ILD: Time lost is lung lost


First launched in 2022 in partnership with Three Lakes Foundation, Bridging Specialties™: Timely Diagnosis for ILD is a collaborative initiative hinged on bringing together pulmonary and primary care experts. To shorten the time to diagnosis for interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) like pulmonary fibrosis, the initiative illustrates that there is a need for clinicians to work collaboratively, utilizing the unique strengths of all involved. The steering committee of experts from both fields created a clinician-facing toolkit that, with support of two quality improvement grants, will be introduced into health care institutions in 2024.

Kavitha Selvan, MD, Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellow at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, and Amirahwaty Abdullah, MBBS, Assistant Professor & Critical Care Medicine Associate Program Director at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, are the recipients of the grants. Each recipient will receive funding to implement strategic quality improvement projects designed to work closely with primary care partners and address the needs of their communities to shorten the time to diagnosis for patients with ILD.

Dr. Selvan’s project leverages the diverse population of Chicago and will engage primary care physicians by working closely with the Medical Director of the Primary Care Group within the University of Chicago. “There is a growing body of research that illustrates vast racial and ethnic disparities in ILD outcomes, including time to diagnosis and survival. The diverse community we serve in Chicago provided the inspiration for our project, which we hope will enable us to take a meaningful step toward achieving equity in health care,” Dr. Selvan said. “Through close collaboration with the dedicated physicians in our Primary Care Group, we aim to increase recognition of signs and symptoms suggestive of ILD earlier in the course of disease and streamline the thoughtful, multidisciplinary care our patients need.”

Affecting 400,000 people in the United States, ILDs are often overlooked as a potential diagnosis given their rarity. A proper diagnosis for this disease is further complicated by ubiquitous presenting symptoms that are common in many other diseases, including asthma, COPD, and cardiac conditions, and often leads to a misdiagnosis. This delay in diagnosis, or an outright misdiagnosis, leads to additional delays in receiving proper treatment and, subsequently, a degradation in the patient’s quality of life. For Dr. Abdullah, the rarity of the disease is not the issue; rather, there is an access issue. Because of this, their project will focus on telemedicine implementation to meet the needs of their area. “While ILD is a rare disease, the state of West Virginia has a disproportionately increased prevalence due to a variety of societal factors,” Dr. Abdullah said. “Despite this prevalence, there is one ILD clinic in the state of West Virginia in comparison to 1,253 primary care providers throughout the state. To address this gap, the project will focus on expanding telemedicine capabilities in order to reach these patients virtually through their primary care physicians who would help us to facilitate the video-assisted visits.”

To learn more about the toolkit they will be implementing, visit the CHEST website.

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