NIH: Barriers to Patient-Provider Dialogue About COPD

Results of a Web-based survey by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) showed that a lack of communication between patients and providers about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains a major barrier to its diagnosis.

Although more Americans are communicating with their healthcare provider about the symptoms of COPD, more can be done.

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The NHLBI analyzed results of the annual HealthStyles survey of public health attitudes, knowledge, practices, and lifestyle habits among a nationally-representative sample of U.S. adults. The most recent survey was conducted in Summer 2013 that included about 4,703 U.S. adults.

The survey showed a significant increase in the number of smokers who had discussed their symptoms with their doctors – from 42% (2009) to 67% (2013). In general, 26% of adults who reported experiencing these symptoms stated they had not discussed these symptoms with their doctor or healthcare provider. 

Also, physicians missed opportunities: 82% of current smokers who reported symptoms had a conversation with their doctor about their smoking history, but only 37% of former smokers reported a similar conversation.

The top reasons cited by patients with COPD symptoms who did not talk to their doctor were:

  • “I did not think of it”
  • “I've had these problems for years”
  • “These problems will just go away in time”

The NHLBI will continue to raise awareness through the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign. The COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign includes tools, such as fact sheets, that may help facilitate discussions between providers and patients in the exam room.

A recent report from the American Lung Association, titled “Taking Her Breath Away: The Rise of COPD in Women” takes a look at COPD and its increase among the U.S. female population. The number of deaths among women from COPD has more than quadrupled since 1980.  

The report also identifies the relationship between risk-factor exposures, biological susceptibility, and sociocultural dynamics that all increase the burden of COPD on women.

In addition, the report lists steps that government agencies, the research community, health systems, and many others can take to address this disease.

For more information read the COPD in Women Report or visit the NHLBI website