Referral and consultation in asthma and COPD: an exploration of pulmonologists' views.
SourceNetherlands Journal of Medicine, 61, 3, (2003), pp. 71-81
Article / Letter to editor
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Netherlands Journal of Medicine
SubjectEBP 3: Effective Primary Care and Public Health
BACKGROUND: The burden of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) on national healthcare systems is expected to increase substantially in future years. Referral guidelines for general practitioners (GPs) and pulmonologists may lead to more efficient use of healthcare facilities. We explored the prevailing views of pulmonologists regarding referral and once-only consultation in asthma and COPD, and compared these views with recently published transmural referral guidelines for GPs and pulmonologists. METHODS: Cross-sectional multiple case study. Twenty-nine Dutch pulmonologists working at non-university hospitals or specialised chest clinics participated in group discussion sessions. RESULTS: The outcome of the discussions and recently published referral guidelines for GPs and pulmonologists showed considerable similarity, but also some marked discrepancies. During the discussions, the main points of disagreement among the pulmonologists were: 1) should GPs or pulmonologists add long-acting beta2-agonists to asthma treatment regimens; 2) should the current cut-off point 'predicted FEV1 <50%' for referral of COPD patients be increased to 60 or 70%; and 3) should an annual exacerbation rate of two episodes a year be used as an undifferentiated referral criterion for COPD patients? For asthma, proposed back-referral (i.e. from pulmonologist to GP) criteria rested on: required dose of inhaled steroids, persistent need for long-acting beta2-agonists, duration of clinical stability and persistence of airway obstruction. Back-referral criteria for COPD rested on age, blood-gas abnormalities and ventilatory limitations. Primary care monitoring facilities and 'shared-care' constructions were considered to be facilitating conditions for back-referral. CONCLUSIONS: This explorative study provided insights into how pulmonologists visualise a rational referral policy for patients with asthma or COPD. These insights can be taken into consideration in future revisions of referral and back-referral guidelines for GPs and pulmonologists.
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