A recently published survey from the American College of Chest Physicians showed that both patients and healthcare providers place less importance on the type of inhaler than the prescribed medication in the treatment of COPD, according to the article in the Journal of the COPD Foundation.
Results from the survey revealed that the type of inhaler device was only of limited importance to physicians when prescribing medication for newly diagnosed patients — only 37% of physicians said the choice of the device was highly important, and only 45% said they evaluated the patient’s technique when first prescribing a device.
Furthermore, even though most physicians said they gave individualized one-on-one training, most did not report consistently checking device technique in newly diagnosed patients. Such assessment occurred even less often among primary care providers compared to pulmonologists (32% versus 52%).
In addition, when treating COPD patients with frequent exacerbations, 87% of healthcare providers said they were much more likely to change or add medications than to switch to a different inhaler while maintaining the same medication. These changes in treatment were also typically triggered by disease symptoms and exacerbations, rather than by poor device technique.
Frankly, it’s because many folks, providers and patients alike, don’t know any better. That’s a not a dig on providers at all; I believe many people think that, like pills, inhalers are essentially interchangeable. If you can swallow one pill, you can swallow this other pill, right? So why should inhalers be any different? And if providers don’t know to care, they’re certainly not going to get patients to understand why they care.
This is another example of why getting respiratory therapists more involved with practices outside the hospital is absolutely critical. It benefits patients, who get an improved quality of life. It benefits practices, with enhanced satisfaction and (in the case of integrated models) reduced unscheduled utilization and reduced care costs. And it benefits RTs, with additional career opportunities.