What They Don’t Know

In a new national survey of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, COPD.net has revealed that healthcare providers are treating aging patients with limited knowledge of their condition.

COPD describes a group of lung conditions that severely impact the breathing of nearly 15 million people in the U.S. (or 6% of the population) and more than 65 million worldwide. In COPD In America, Health Union surveyed online 1,009 U.S. citizens and residents who were diagnosed with COPD.

66% of respondents said they started experiencing symptoms after turning 50 years old. By this point, many were already combating other health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and sleep disorders. If these types of individuals could be reached at a younger age, their COPD treatment could start earlier, when their overall health is likely to be better.

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Only 38% of respondents were aware of COPD or its risk factors prior to their diagnosis. Most had health coverage, received disease specific treatment and were happy with their individual care. The survey also found that:

  • 94% of respondents are insured, with many on Medicare or Medicaid.
  • 65% began treatment immediately upon diagnosis, with an additional 16% starting treatment within six months.
  • 74% saw a primary care or family physician for their COPD and 73% saw a pulmonologist/pulmonary doctor.
  • 78% of respondents were satisfied with their healthcare provider, with 93% satisfied with the COPD doctor/specialist.

This level of healthcare and satisfaction illustrates that the door is open to affect change in patient behavior. At diagnosis, 64% of respondents said they wished they knew more about how COPD would affect their lifestyle and 63% wished they knew more about how to prevent or stall it.

Leon C. Lebowitz, a licensed, credentialed respiratory therapist and COPD.net moderator, said “There is a great opportunity for healthcare providers to educate COPD patients. This survey shows that when armed with information, patients do take steps to change their lives. Post diagnosis, 68% of those that were current smokers quit and an additional 15% were trying to. 78% of respondents wish they had done things differently so that they would not have the disease. Just imagine the impact if healthcare professionals can reach these individuals earlier.”

Tonya Hidalgo, a COPD.net contributor, served as one of her mother’s primary COPD caregivers and agreed wholeheartedly that the opportunity exists to better reach and educate COPD patients. “Mom was determined to live. I saw how hard she fought.” Ms. Hidalgo said, noting that her mom quit smoking very quickly.

One area ripe for education is the benefits of exercise and respiratory therapy. “Mom said she wished she understood more about what these areas of treatment could do. She had a great doctor who told her those things, but it just didn’t always click.”

67% of respondents blamed themselves for having COPD. Healthcare professionals cannot turn back the clock to make these wishes a reality, but they can turn the desire for information and willingness to change into better future care. The earlier COPD patients are reached and the better all treatment options are transmitted at all levels of healthcare, the more likely negative, backward-looking views can be turned into positive, forward-looking results.

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