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PRAXIS Resource of the Month – The COPD Action Plan

Posted on October 01, 2015   |   
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COPD Action Plan green light

Research has shown that clear action plans may improve health outcomes for people with COPD. One 2011 study showed that adherence to an action plan was associated with more prompt treatment and therefore a reduced exacerbation recovery time; a 2009 study revealed that those employing a COPD action plan as part of their care were significantly less likely to require hospitalization than were their standard of care counterparts.

How might COPD action plans improve COPD care?

Improved communication – The physical action plan document is a tool that, when used by patients and their entire care team, ensures each member of the group is speaking the same language. That is, when a patient determines he is having a "yellow" day, as evidenced by a set of symptoms specific to him, both he and his healthcare provider have a clear understanding of what that means and what their expected next steps will be.

Establishes the patient as a partner in care – No one knows a patient's experience better than he does. The COPD action plan helps those with COPD to monitor more closely changes in their own bodies and how they can self-manage those changes. It empowers the patient to be an active participant in his care as he learns to recognize what triggers his flare-ups and understands that, if necessary, his healthcare team will respond in an established manner.

Improved efficiency – In a well-executed action plan, the health care provider will know that a patient has tried all agreed upon at-home care prior to reaching out for support. This can result in more efficient decision making on the part of a provider about the need for more intensive follow up for her patient.

Barriers to potential use:

Time – The implementation of action plans requires time on the part of one or more care team members to ensure that the plan is 1) tailored to the specific patient in a way that is useful and 2) communicated effectively to that patient.


Crouse COPD Action Plan

Customization – Customization is key given that there is not a single COPD road map traveled by all patients. Action plans should be tailored to include an individual’s specific situation, including triggers, medications and baseline symptoms.

Distribution – Once an action plan is customized and discussed, copies should be distributed to all health care team members.

Living document – The COPD action plan is an evolving document. If a patient's situation, medication or treatment approach changes, the plan should be updated to reflect those changes.

The following COPD action plan is used by Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, NY ( and can be adapted for your use.

Let us know in the comments: What are your thoughts on this as a tool to improve COPD care and the patient experience? Does your team use COPD action plans in your work? If you'd like, please share your approach in the comments.

UPDATE: The COPD Foundation has produced its own action plan; it can be found in our downloads library here!

Related Files

Crouse COPD Action Plan.pdf (108.13 KB)


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  • Are you an individual with COPD using this as part of your current care? We'd love to hear from you too. For all, what has your experience been from either the patient or healthcare provider end?
    • I'm a COPD patient and this Action Plan looks similar to that which the American Lung Association has, except that the ALA's also has a flip side with additional information, such as medications taken, doctors name & phone, etc. And the symptoms and actions are a little bit different in the "Yellow" Zone, but both are helpful, especially to someone newly diagnosed who is not sure whether they should be concerned or not.

    • Thanks Karen -- you are spot on. ALA's is very similar and uses the stoplight approach, as well:

  • Karen, thanks for commenting. I love using the stop light method of evaluating symptoms. In healthcare we use it for many diseases, it helps patients clearly identify the symptoms their healthcare team wants them to take action on. Most healthcare organizations like to fine tune their own. The color recognition for action is very intuitive
    As a case manager we always ask patients when we do calls out what color day it is as the first question.
    I would love to see other versions that folks have gotten. Thank you Crouse Hospital for letting us share

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