COPD patients not happy with their treatment and reluctant to talk with their doctors: report

It seems patient satisfaction is low when it comes to their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment, according to a recent report out from consultancy Phreesia Life Sciences.

When surveying more than 1,000 patients with COPD, a chronic lung disease that can cause serious breathing difficulties, Phreesia discovered patients are reluctant to discuss their ongoing symptoms with their doctor.

In fact, only four out of 10 patients said they have detailed conversations with their doctor about their COPD symptoms while 34% feel they don’t even fully understand their condition.

The goal behind the survey was to gather information on the day-to-day experience of patients living with COPD and to equip Phreesia with the information of how people are managing the condition as a whole.

However, the research team was surprised by just how much patients seemed to be suffering on a daily basis and how infrequently they were communicating with a physician, according to Jai Seth, senior research manager at Phreesia.

“Millions of Americans are diagnosed with COPD and with Phreesia’s wide reach, we have an opportunity to uncover meaningful insights,” Seth told Fierce Pharma Marketing. While this initial survey looked at some generalizations about treatment and symptoms for patients across the country, Phreesia hopes to further dive into more specific patient concerns in future surveys.

“The broader goal for our clients in the pharma marketing space is that they will take these insights and act on them and that patients will be given doctor discussion guides and know what to ask,” he added. In other words, Phreesia hopes pharma companies will take these survey results and put them into action—as soon as possible.

While Seth admits it is hard to generalize as to why patients are reluctant to communicate more frequently with a physician, he believes that, like with many other diseases, people are trained to believe “this is their reality,” and, since the doctor is the one who diagnosed the patient, the doctor should be the one asking questions.

The lack of patient-doctor communication seems to be a big missing piece of the puzzle, as proven by the survey, which revealed 84% of patients who take COPD maintenance meds only do so because of a physician recommendation.

But Phreesia hopes that bringing to light these insights about COPD can help empower patients to take control of their medical care.

“We have to acknowledge that during an appointment, a physician has a limited amount of time and a long list of items to get through,” Seth said. “So if patients do not have effective tools and know what to bring up, the opportunity will be missed.”

Other surprising facts from the doctors’ office survey support the need for better control over the disease, as two-thirds of patients reported COPD having a substantial impact on their everyday life and almost half (47%) said they suffer moderate to great impairment of their emotional well-being. In addition, 31% of these patients have had to take time off from work or frequent breaks due to the disease.

Seth says the survey resulted in two big discoveries: First, patients do not truly understand COPD, so there is room for pharma to offer a deeper understanding of the disease.

“It feels like there are big gaps in knowing what to ask or having appropriate expectations; also how patients interact with the condition and what treatment looks like,” he said.

Second, pharma marketers need to be more specific about what their meds do, the possible side effects and other pertinent patient information about treatment options.

“We learned from the survey that satisfaction across the board is low and only 25% of patients are satisfied,” Seth said. And while the reasons for this low rate could be attributed to missed doses or the need for a different medication, Seth sees a big opportunity for pharma companies to differentiate themselves as a brand by arming patients with the necessary information.

As next steps, Seth hopes that brands will come to the Phreesia website, see the survey results and translate them into resources.

“Being in the healthcare and life sciences space, we are always looking for meaningful ways to move the needle on patient burden and to empower patients to play role in their treatment journey,” Seth added.