Aim: We studied the quality of care for COPD patients in a large sample of general practices in Denmark. We focussed on whether participation by general practitioners (GPs) in an educational programme could enhance the use of spirometry in the diagnosis and staging of the disease and improve adherence to COPD guidelines.
Methods: We performed two audit surveys of GPs' patients' notes, one year apart, before and after an educational programme for participating GPs and their staff. A total of 154 GPs participated in the study. 2549 patient records were included in the first survey and 2394 in the second.
Results: Based on analysis of all patient records, we observed a substantial improvement in the quality of care: recording of FEV1 improved from 52.7% of cases in the first survey to 71.4% in the second (p< 0.001). There was a significant improvement in the recording of body mass index and provision of smoking cessation advice, recommendation of physical activity, checking of inhalation technique, dietary instruction, and referral to pulmonary rehabilitation. We also found a decline in the use of inhaled corticosteroids in patients with mild COPD, from 60.2% in the first survey to 48.8% in the second. When analysing the results focussing on the performance of single GPs there was an improvement in quality, but this was less than the improvement for patients overall - suggesting that improvement in quality of care was not equally distributed throughout the GPs' practices.
Conclusion: We conclude that it is possible to improve the quality of COPD care by educating GPs and their staff.