JOURNAL ARTICLE

Guideline-based survey of outpatient COPD management by pulmonary specialists in Germany

Thomas Glaab, Claus Vogelmeier, Andreas Hellmann, Roland Buhl
International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2012, 7: 101-8
22371651

BACKGROUND: Little is known about the role of guidelines for the practical management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by office-based pulmonary specialists. The aim of this study was to assess their outpatient management in relation to current guideline recommendations for COPD.

METHODS: A nationwide prospective cross-sectional COPD questionnaire survey in the form of a multiple-choice questionnaire was sent to 1000 office-based respiratory specialists in Germany. The product-neutral questions focused on routine COPD management and were based on current national and international COPD guideline recommendations being consistent in severity classification and treatment recommendations.

RESULTS: A total of 590 pulmonary specialists (59%) participated in the survey. Body plethysmography was considered the standard for diagnosis (65.9%), followed by spirometry (32%). Most respondents were able to cite the correct spirometric criteria for classifying moderate (87%) to very severe COPD (77%). A quarter of the respondents equated the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of chronic bronchitis with COPD. Notably, most participants preferred the updated national COPD guidelines (51.4%) to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines (40.2%). Improvement of functional exercise capacity and quality of life were considered the two most relevant treatment goals; whereas impact on mortality was secondary. Treatment of COPD largely complied with the guidelines. However, a significant percentage of the pulmonary specialists differed in their assessment of the benefits of various therapeutic measures from evidence-based results. Referral for pulmonary rehabilitation was uncommon, regardless of the severity of COPD.

CONCLUSION: The findings of this large national survey suggest that most pulmonary specialists adhere to the current COPD guideline recommendations in daily practice. However, physicians' knowledge of guidelines is not sufficient as the sole benchmark when assessing their implementation in day-to-day practice. Necessary changes in the health care system must include more effective ways to transfer knowledge to clinical practice and to give access to interventions of proven clinical benefit.

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