Knowledge and use of office spirometry for the detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by primary care physicians

Respir Care. 2005 Dec;50(12):1639-48.


Background: The importance of office spirometry has been strongly advocated in the pulmonary community, but whether its importance is recognized and accepted by primary care physicians is less well established.

Methods: To assess primary care physicians' knowledge and use of office spirometry for the detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, we conducted a brief mail survey on the local practice of office spirometry, barriers to performing office spirometry, and general knowledge about spirometry. We also provided 60-min educational workshops to assess whether such an approach would increase spirometry testing or perceptions about spirometry.

Results: Twenty-nine of 57 (51%) primary care offices responded to the survey. Of these, 66% owned their own spirometer. The most common reasons for not performing spirometry were uncertainty about the impact of the test (41%), physician and staff unfamiliarity (38%), and lack of training (34%). Twenty-one respondents participated in the workshops. In the 3 months following the workshops, the number of spirometry tests increased by 59% (p = 0.004). After the workshops, the proportion of clinics that reported reasons for not performing the test decreased by 13% (p = 0.01), but important barriers to performing office spirometry were still present, including physician and staff unfamiliarity (22%), uncertain interpretation of results (22%), time (22%), and reimbursement (22%).

Conclusions: The general knowledge and use of office spirometry in the primary care community is poor, but can be improved, at least in the short-term, by a simple educational workshop.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Spirometry / statistics & numerical data*