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Am J Med. 2007 Aug;120(8 Suppl 1):S28-32.

Improving in-office discussion of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results and recommendations from an in-office linguistic study in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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CommonHealth, MBS/Vox, Parsippany, New Jersey 07054, USA.


Effective management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requires successful physician-patient communication. Unfortunately, however, both parties often report problematic communication. Accommodating patients' desire for more information and an increased role in decision-making can increase their satisfaction surrounding the dialogue. This study analyzed naturally occurring interactions to assess in-office COPD discussions, identifying best practices and gaps in communication. In-office discussions of a study population of 17 community-based physicians and 32 outpatients with COPD (59% women; mean age, 69.5 years) were recorded during regularly scheduled visits. Individual postvisit interviews were conducted to clarify health history and perceptions of the office visit. Recordings were transcribed and analyzed using validated sociolinguistic techniques. Physicians initiated discussions of COPD with the term "breathing" in 56% of visits; these discussions focused on the acute nature of the disease, including an average of 6.4 physician-initiated, symptom-related questions. In postvisit interviews, participants (patients versus physicians) were frequently misaligned about the severity of, as well as the patient's level of concern about, the disease. Quality-of-life discussions were largely absent from visits, although patients offered emotionally charged responses postvisit about the impact of COPD in their lives. Despite accepted guidelines, discussions on smoking cessation, spirometry, and inhaler technique were underused. To reduce observed gaps in communication, physicians can focus on 4 topic areas: (1) communicating COPD diagnosis and test results, (2) optimizing disease education, (3) prioritizing smoking cessation, and (4) demonstrating correct inhaler use. Simple communication techniques, including consistent vocabulary, perspective display series, the 5 As of smoking cessation (ask about tobacco use, advise to quit, assess willingness to make a quit attempt, assist in quit attempt, arrange follow-up), and inhaler training, can maximize in-office efficiency. Combining these topic areas and communication techniques could result in higher levels of physician and patient satisfaction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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