Purpose: COPD remains under-recognized and under-treated. Much of early COPD care is given by primary care physicians but only when COPD is recognized. This survey explores the attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge related to COPD recognition, diagnosis, and treatment from family physicians and nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) working in primary care.
Methods: We completed a survey of family physicians, and NPs/PAs attending one of three CME programs on five common chronic conditions including COPD.
Results: Return rate was 62% (n = 284) including 178 physicians and 100 NPs/PAs. Fewer than half of the respondents reported knowledge of or use of COPD guidelines. The barriers to recognition and diagnosis of COPD they reported included the multiple morbidities of most COPD patients, failure of patients to report COPD symptoms, as well as lack of knowledge and inadequate training in COPD diagnosis and management. Three quarters (74%) of respondents reported use of spirometry to diagnose COPD but only 32% said they included reversibility assessment. COPD was incorrectly assessed as a disease primarily of men (78% ofrespondents) that appeared after age 60 (61%). Few respondents reported that they believed COPD treatment was useful or very useful for improving symptoms (15%) or decreasing exacerbations (3%) or that pulmonary rehabilitation was helpful (3%), but 13% reported they thought COPD treatment could extend longevity.
Conclusions: Primary care physicians and NPs/PAs working in primary care continue to report lack of awareness and use of COPD guidelines, as well as correct information related to COPD epidemiology or potential benefits of available treatments including pulmonary rehabilitation. It is unlikely that diagnosis and management of COPD will improve in primary care until these knowledge gaps and discrepancies with published efficacy of therapy issues are addressed.