BACKGROUND: The information on usual care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in primary care is limited in Canada.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate primary care practice in patients with COPD in Quebec and Ontario compared with recommended care.
METHODS: The COPD Care Gap Evaluation (CAGE) was a prospective, cross-sectional study. Physicians’ self-reported data of enrolled COPD patients were compared with the recommended care for the level of disease severity (using the Canadian Thoracic Society classification by symptoms) and stability, derived from Canadian Thoracic Society COPD guidelines. Pharmacological treatment, spirometric confirmation of diagnosis and nonpharmacological management, including smoking cessation counselling, influenza immunization and referral for pulmonary rehabilitation, were assessed.
RESULTS: Participating physicians (n=161; 44 in Quebec, 117 in Ontario) recruited 1090 patients (320 in Quebec, 770 in Ontario). The mean (± SD) age of the patients was 69.9±10.4 years; 60% were male and 40% were currently smoking. Pharmacological treatment that matched guideline recommendations was identified in 34% of patients. Discrepancies between reported and recommended treatment stemmed from nonprescription of long-acting bronchodilators (LABDs) for patients with moderate (27%) and severe (21%) COPD, nonprescription of two long-acting beta agonists (a beta2-agonist and an anticholinergic) for patients with severe COPD (51%), and prescription of inhaled corticosteroids (63%) and LABDs (47%) for patients with mild COPD for which the treatment is not recommended. Spirometric confirmation of diagnosis, as recommended by the guidelines, was reported in 56% of patients. For non-pharmacological management, smoking cessation counselling (95%) and influenza immunization (80%) were near optimal. Referral for pulmonary rehabilitation (9%) was not common. Differences between provinces were seen mainly in the prescription of short-acting bronchodilators (89% in Quebec, 76% in Ontario) and LABDs (60% in Quebec, 80% in Ontario).
CONCLUSIONS: Substantial gaps between recommended and current care exist in the management of COPD patients in primary care practice. Undertreatment of patients with severe COPD has potential clinical implications, including loss of autonomy and hospitalization.