Spirometry education may improve COPD diagnosis, care

A spirometer may sound like a gadget you played with as a kid, but it’s actually a device used to help diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is responsible for one death every four minutes in the U.S. By 2020, COPD is expected to be the third most common cause of death in the country. While primary care providers are the most likely health care providers to test for the disease, they often refer patients to pulmonology specialists for the simple test using a spirometer.

The Texas Prevention Institute (TPI) worked with NorTex investigators, the UNTHSC Department of Family Medicine and the Office of Professional and Continuing Education to determine how physician use of spirometry can affect and improve treatment of COPD.

As a benchmark, the researchers surveyed physicians, physician assistants and residents about their knowledge, beliefs and practices using spirometers with their patients to detect COPD. These health care professionals were then trained on when to use the device and how to interpret results. Finally, the research team went back to determine if the physicians had increased use of spirometers in the physician’s office, saving the patient an additional trip to a pulmonologist for this simple test.

Early results show that the educational programs increased the use of spirometry in primary care offices, leading to earlier diagnosis of and outcomes for COPD.

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