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Surveying the COPD Scene

Surveying the COPD Scene

In 2010, COPD surpassed stroke to become the third leading cause of death in the United States, affecting an estimated 24 million Americans. Studies indicate, however, that as many as half of those affected by COPD are undiagnosed, partially because symptoms of the disease come on slowly and worsen over time. As a result, many patients dismiss their symptoms and delay seeking diagnosis and treatment until their COPD reaches an advanced stage. In 2007, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign, a program designed to raise awareness about COPD. To assess attitudes, knowledge, practices, and lifestyle habits related to COPD, the NHLBI also conducts a yearly survey among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. In 2013, the NHLBI’s annual survey included patients as well as primary care physicians (PCPs), obstetricians/gynecologists, and nurse practitioners (NPs). Results showed that there continues to be a lack of communication between patients and providers about COPD, according to James P. Kiley, PhD. “More Americans—smokers, in particular—are talking to their healthcare providers about the symptoms of COPD, which is a sign that awareness efforts are taking hold,” says Dr. Kiley. “That said, patients and providers can still do more.” Missed Opportunities The NHLBI survey found a dramatic increase in the numbers of current smokers who had discussed symptoms with their doctors, rising from 42% in 2009 to 67% in 2013. PCPs are also becoming more familiar with COPD evaluation methods and using them more frequently; in addition, NPs are catching up to PCPs in this regard (Table 1). At the same time, however, 26% of...
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