U.S. Lung Disease Care Not Measuring Up

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MONDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Many obstructive lung disease patients in the United States receive only about half the recommended medical care they need, a new study finds.

Improving that situation could save tens of thousands of lives each year, according to a study released Monday by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

For example, the researchers estimated that increasing the number of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients who receive oxygen treatment at home could save 27,000 to 57,000 lives a year.

Boosting the number of hospitalized asthma patients who receive steroids could save nearly 2,000 lives a year, the experts added.

Both COPD and asthma are forms of obstructive lung disease, which affects an estimated 12 million to 50 million Americans and is a leading cause of death in the country.

Researchers analyzed two years of medical records for 429 obstructive lung disease patients in 12 communities across the United States.

They found that, overall, the patients received about 55 percent of recommended care.

The study also found that patients with COPD received 46 percent of recommended care for routine management of their disease, and 60 percent of recommended care when their condition worsened.

In contrast, asthma patients received 67 percent of recommended care for routine management of their illness, but only 48 percent of recommended care when their condition worsened.

The study is in the November issue of the journal Chest.

"Our findings show that the quality of care provided to patients with obstructive lung disease is lacking, just as it is for many other common health problems," lead author Dr. Richard A. Mularski, a physician-researcher with the Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, said in a prepared statement.

"We found several specific areas of care that could be targeted for improvement efforts," he said. These include increased use of lung function tests for COPD patients and more use of spacers with metered-dose inhalers. Spacers help improve the use of inhalers.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about COPD.

SOURCE: RAND Corporation, news release, Nov. 13, 2006