Background: The general practitioner (GP) is often the first healthcare contact for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Aims: To determine whether participating in a standardised educational programme delivered in the GP's own practice is associated with adherence to COPD guidelines.
Methods: A nationwide register-based observational before and after study was undertaken with a control group of propensity-matched practices (follow-up period 6 months). COPD was defined as age 40+ years and at least two prescriptions for inhaled medication. The educational programme consisted of a 3-hr teaching lesson with a respiratory specialist and five visits by a representative from the sponsoring pharmaceutical company focusing on assessment and management of patients including written algorithms. A one-to-one propensity-matched control group of practices was selected. Register data were used to compare the rate of spirometry testing, preventive consultations, and influenza vaccinations provided to COPD patients and the rate of spirometry testing in non-COPD individuals, assumed to reflect diagnostic activity.
Results: Data for 102 participating GP practices were analysed. Participating clinics had a significant increase in preventive consultations and influenza vaccinations (p<0.05). For the control group, a significant change was observed only for influenza vaccinations. No significant change was found when comparing participating and control clinics in the difference-in-difference estimator. However, a significant improvement was observed for the subgroup of 48 clinics with the lowest starting point of spirometry testing.
Conclusions: Focused education of GPs and their staff delivered in the GPs' own practices may improve adherence to COPD guidelines, not least for clinics with a high potential for improvement.