PCP Needs Assessment

In 2007, the COPD Foundation jointly conducted the Primary Care Physician Needs Assessment with Outcomes, Inc. to evaluate the primary care patterns in outpatient COPD management, and to identify aspects of COPD care that should be targeted by educational initiatives.

Below you’ll find the key findings from this study. You may also access the full report here.

Key Findings

Physicians want more education on COPD management.

  • It was found that 61.1% of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) considered their recent COPD education exposure inadequate for their needs.

Physicians value clinical practice guidelines to help guide clinical practice, but have low awareness of COPD-specific guidelines.

  • According to 64.4% of PCPs, clinical practice guidelines are the most important tool used in helping them provide optimal patient care.
  • 44.9% of PCPs are unaware of clinical practice guidelines.

Spirometry poses significant challenges to PCPs since it’s the primary tool for confirming and staging COPD.

  • 38.6% of PCPs lack spirometry in their practice. Of those with spirometry available, a third (35.6%) do not use it routinely.
  • 64.8% of PCPs know how to use simple spirometry parameters to diagnose and stage COPD.

Physicians underutilize optimal bronchodilator therapies in patients with COPD, and over-utilize therapies with significant potential for adverse effects.

  • Long-acting bronchodilators are recommended as first line therapy to control persistent COPD symptoms, but are not the drug of choice for physicians. In a patient with moderate-to-severe COPD who has not responded to initial therapy, only 36% appropriately chose a long-acting bronchodilator. According to guidelines, severe COPD should be treated with LABAs and steroids–particularly if there are exacerbations. Another problem here relates to the overlap between asthma and COPD, which can be substantial.
  • Physicians often use inhaled steroids inappropriately in COPD patients, despite their significant risk for adverse effects. Given a spirometry-confirmed diagnosis of COPD, inhaled corticosteroids were chosen as initial therapy by 30.1% of physicians. This may be the appropriate therapy in patients who have asthma and COPD overlap.

The biggest obstacles to optimal COPD management in primary care were identified as the challenge of recognizing patients with early COPD and limited educational resources for newly diagnosed patients.


As a result of this study, the COPD Foundation has developed educational programs to address the specific gaps.