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The challenges faced by GPs in managing COPD

31 March, 2011

General Practitioners regard controlling exacerbations as key to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) disease progression and patient quality of life, but challenges exist in using key tools available to help them, according to a new survey by the Australian Lung Foundation.

The national survey of 373 Australian GPs*, which explored the latest attitudes towards the diagnosis and treatment of COPD, found that almost all GPs surveyed (99.2%) consider reducing exacerbations to be important or very important in improving COPD outcomes and quality of life.

Despite GPs identifying the importance of targeting exacerbations, the survey found that there is limited use of spirometry testing and under-use of the COPD-X Guidelines ** which are both vital in ensuring effective COPD management.

Dr Kerry Hancock, Chair of the Lung Foundation GP Advisory Group and General Practitioner in Adelaide, believes the high awareness of the need to reduce exacerbations in the survey results is good news for the treatment of COPD in primary care, but recognizes that more work must be done by the Lung Foundation in communicating availability of resources and adapting current resources for practical use in a primary care setting. 

"Controlling exacerbations is an important part of improving COPD patient outcomes and quality of life, whether through prescribed treatment or other non-pharmacological interventions, including pulmonary rehabilitation and action plans. We recognize that it is important to continue to provide education for and communicate with all primary care professionals about the latest options in improving patient outcomes", said Dr Hancock.

The survey supports both the COPD-X Guidelines and Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), which state that early identification and management of exacerbations, including reducing their frequency and severity, is a major goal of effective COPD management.***

The survey found that 40 per cent of GPs had used spirometry testing to diagnose COPD in fewer than one in five of their patients with COPD. Spirometry is a key tool used to diagnose the presence and severity of COPD. Less than one in ten (8.3%) GPs regularly use the COPD-X Guidelines to guide best practice diagnosis and treatment of COPD in Australia and New Zealand.

"The results of the survey demonstrate that there is still work to be done by the Lung Foundation to promote relevant services and resources to GPs in helping them best manage their COPD patients," said Mr William Darbishire, CEO of the Lung Foundation.

The Lung Foundation is responding to this need by developing two key resources for use in primary care.

This includes an on-line toolkit for use in general practice that will summarise the COPD-X Guidelines and provide supporting resources for spirometry testing.  On-line training for primary care nurses supporting their role in COPD disease management is also being developed. 

Both these resources will be available by the end of the year.

For further information on these and other resources for use in primary care, contact The Australian Lung Foundation on 1 800 654 301.

Source: The Australian Lung Foundation

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