Hospitalized patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) may be managed by either respiratory specialists (RS) or general medicine physicians (GMP). While previous studies have audited the hospital AECOPD management of RS, only a small number of studies have evaluated the management of GMP.
The aims of this study were to firstly examine the differences in AECOPD management of GMP and RS and secondly compare their care to national COPD guidelines.
A retrospective review was undertaken of consecutive AECOPD patients admitted to two hospitals (one hospital where all AECOPD patients were managed by RS and another where all AECOPD patients were managed by GMP) over a 3-month period. Electronic medical records, medical case notes, pathology and radiology data for the admission were reviewed.
There were 201 COPD exacerbations in 169 patients (49.7% male, mean age 72.3). GMP managed 84 (41.7%) exacerbations. In comparison to RS, GMP performed fewer spirometry tests, blood gas analysis and less frequently treated patients with guideline-recommended medications. Referral to pulmonary rehabilitation was poor for both groups of clinicians. Median length of stay was shorter in GMP patients versus RS patients (3 days vs. 5 days, P = 0.001). There were no differences in the 12-month re-admission (41.7% vs. 38.5%, P = 0.664) and mortality rates (10.7% vs. 6%, P = 0.292) between both groups of patients.
Our study found differences in the hospital AECOPD management of GMP and RS, but these did not translate into different clinical outcomes between their patients. We also found suboptimal adherence to national COPD guidelines, suggesting that there is scope for improvement in the AECOPD management of both groups of clinicians.