Introduction: At variance from office spirometry, telespirometry has not been tested as a tool for improving the ability of general practitioners (GPs) to manage chronic airway diseases.
Methods: After adequate training, 937 Italian GPs agreed to perform telespirometry in subjects attending their clinics who had risk factors, persistent respiratory symptoms, or a previous diagnosis of asthma or COPD. Each subject performed at least three forced expiratory manoeuvres using a turbine spirometer. Traces were sent by telephone to a Telespirometry Central Office, where they were interpreted by a pulmonary specialist, according to defined criteria. The result was sent in real time to the GP to assist the management of the patient.
Results: During 2 years, 20,757 telespirometries were performed, with a mean of 22.2+/-25.2 examinations for each GP. 70% of the tests met the criteria for good or partial co-operation, allowing spirometric abnormalities to be detected in more than 40% of the tracings. The rate of telespirometries that could not be evaluated at all was reasonably low (9.2%). For a subset of the telespirometries, a comparison between acceptability criteria for telespirometry and those recommended for laboratory (ATS) or office spirometry showed that the majority of telespirometries with good co-operation satisfied completely, or with minor deviations, the ATS and Office criteria.
Conclusions: Telespirometry was well accepted by Italian GPs, who obtained acceptable screening traces in a large percentage of subjects. Therefore it might be considered a useful alternative to office spirometry in improving the management of chronic airway diseases by GPs.