Spirometry, or a lung function test, is the best way to diagnose and determine the severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), yet the test is underused by many primary care practitioners. A spirometry toolkit being developed by Dr. Nick Hanania, associate professor of medicine in the section of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, could change that.
Hanania was recently named the American College of Chest Physicians’ GlaxoSmithKline Distinguished Scholar in Respiratory Health, which enables members who propose outstanding projects in pulmonary medicine to extend their impact in clinical practice.
His project will develop a toolkit for primary care practitioners that will guide them in the use of spirometry for diagnosing and managing airway diseases. It will be funded for $150,000 over three years by The CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.
“Practice guidelines for both asthma and COPD advocate spirometry as a tool for diagnosing and staging the disease and by doing that, the physician can pick the right treatment,” said Hanania. “There are many misconceptions out there about using spirometry.”
Misconceptions about the test include its level of difficulty, the time it takes to conduct the test, interpreting the results and whether the test is reimbursable by insurance companies.
Hanania notes that practitioners are not required to conduct the test themselves, but can train someone in their office to do it, and the test is reimbursable by insurance.
He and colleagues plan to develop an educational program in spirometry for primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The toolkit will provide information about what spirometry is and why it’s done. The toolkit will be available on a multimedia platform.
“The CHEST Foundation is committed to advancing the field of chest medicine through its Distinguished Scholar Grant program,” said Dr. John E. Studdard, president of The CHEST Foundation. “We are pleased to support Dr. Hanania’s project on respiratory health with its goal to improve outcomes of patients suffering from lung disease.”
“We don’t treat patients with diabetes without testing their blood sugar, and we don’t treat patients with blood pressure problems without measuring blood pressure, so why should we be diagnosing and treating patients with airway disease without measuring their numbers?” said Hanania.