Nearly two-thirds (62%) of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) know very little about exacerbations (flare-ups of symptoms), and 16% do not know what exacerbations are. Healthcare providers are alarmed by these figures, as exacerbations can lead to life-threatening complications and are a leading cause of hospitalizations in the United States. Better dialogue between patients and physicians, as well as educating patients about their progressive respiratory condition, may help lower the figures and mitigate concerns.
“Exacerbations can have a devastating impact on overall health, and they can actually cause COPD to progress even faster and reduce lung function,” said Scott Cerreta, director of Education, as reported by the COPD Foundation. After a patient experiences an exacerbation, he or she is more likely to experience another. On average, if a patient has had an exacerbation, he or she has had 22 throughout his or her life.
Although the number of patients who are aware of exacerbations is high (84%), 60% do not have an action plan for dealing with a flare-up. This is despite the fact that 98% of physicians who treat COPD discuss exacerbations with their patients, and 92% help establish action plans. “Developing an action plan with instructions to help patients–and their caregivers–identify warning signs and what steps to take if an exacerbation should occur is a critical part of managing COPD,” said Cerreta.
Early detection and diagnosis can make all the difference for managing COPD and slowing its progression. However, the average wait time for patients to seek diagnosis is two years and nine months after the start of symptoms. Thirty-nine percent of patients have severe or very severe symptoms when they see their physician. Adding to this, only 49% of physicians use spirometry to confirm a diagnosis of COPD.
Once diagnosed, 12% of COPD patients feel they have complete control over their condition. The majority feel COPD disrupts their ability to perform daily activities such as exercising, climbing stairs, and walking. However, 82% are satisfied with their treatment regimen, which suggests patients are unaware of how symptoms can be improved.
Findings were made through a two-part national Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Experience (COPE) Survey from the COPD Foundation in conjunction with Forest Laboratories, Inc. The COPD patient survey was taken by 1,102 Americans, ages 40 years and older, with COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The physician survey was taken by 100 American pulmonologists and 100 primary care physicians. Both surveys were online between December 2013 and January 2014. Kelton Global conducted the COPD patient survey, and M3 Global Research conducted the physician survey. Physician number and type were selected through physician specialty and COPD patient volume.