COPD Foundation and American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST) release report to better understand communication about COPD exacerbations

WASHINGTON, DC (November 16, 2020)— To learn more about the experiences of individuals impacted by COPD and the health care professionals supporting them, the COPD Foundation collaborated with the American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST) to gain valuable information on how those living with or managing COPD perceive exacerbations. Initial results from the survey suggest there are critical gaps in communication between patients with COPD and their health care professionals.

COPD exacerbations adversely impact the health and quality of life of people living with the disease. Frequent exacerbations, and especially those resulting in hospitalizations, lead to greater impairment in daily living, decreased ability to remain in the workplace, and an increased burden on family caregivers. Evidence suggests that those with frequent exacerbations experience worsening lung function, more rapid lung function decline, and are more likely to have longer hospital stays. Readmissions within 30 days of discharge and repeated exacerbations of COPD increase mortality risk in patients with COPD.

"While we as physicians believe we are communicating clearly and well, these data suggest we likely need to explore additional ways to say things in the brief time we have with patients and families. This study provides important insights," said Barbara Yawn, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at the COPD Foundation and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Separate online surveys were created for impacted individuals and physicians, with a goal of assessing knowledge about COPD exacerbations, what causes exacerbations, and how to prevent them. The surveys also explored barriers to patient-physician communication and frequency and content of exacerbation related communications. The project was supported by a contribution from AstraZeneca.

Some examples of the communication gap findings include:

  • 86% of doctors surveyed believe they initiate conversations about exacerbations, while 79% of those living with COPD believe they drive the conversation.
  • The two groups have significant differences in explaining why exacerbations go unreported. For example, 67% of doctors believe a lack of regular checkups is a contributing factor, while only 6% of impacted individuals cited that as a factor.
  • Health care professionals reported that discussions about exacerbations are an important part of COPD patient self-management. Yet, nearly half of those living with COPD say they do not know how to prevent or recognize an exacerbation in its early stages.

"Successful communication between clinicians and patients is an important step in improving outcomes and quality of care. While the survey gives us insights into areas for improvement, change happens when we actively endeavor to understand what our patients know about their disease and how to prevent or recognize an exacerbation," said Health Policy and Advocacy Committee Chair Neil Freedman, MD, FCCP. "Through CHEST and the CHEST Foundation, we are working to provide people with COPD the resources needed for better self-management."

Frank Trudo, Vice President, US Medical Affairs, Respiratory and Immunology, AstraZeneca, said, "At AstraZeneca, we are committed to advancing respiratory science to better understand COPD and to help people living with the disease. Supporting the COPD Foundation and CHEST on this important research has helped illuminate key communication gaps between patients and their physicians, providing a critical opportunity to increase dialogue around early prevention of exacerbations with the goal of improving health outcomes for people living with COPD."

About the COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization created in 2004, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Miami, FL. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a preventable and treatable disease. The COPD Foundation was established to speed innovations which will make treatment more effective and affordable, to undertake initiatives that result in expanded services for COPD patients, and improve the lives of patients with COPD and related disorders (through scientific research, education & awareness) that will lead to prevention and a stop in the progression of COPD. To learn more about the COPD Foundation, please visit

About the American College of Chest Physicians
The American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST) is the global leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chest diseases. Its mission is to champion advanced clinical practice, education communication and research in chest medicine. It serves as an essential connection to clinical knowledge and resources for its 19,000+ members from around the world who provide patient care in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. For information about the American College of Chest Physicians, and its flagship journal CHEST®, visit