Diagnosing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans: Veterans Affair's Concordance With Clinical Guidelines for Spirometry Administration

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Background—Early diagnosis and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can slow disease progression. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)/Department of Defense Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG), established to improve patient outcomes, recommend the use of spirometry in the COPD diagnostic process. The aims of this study were to assess VA health care providers’ performance related to CPG-recommended spirometry administration in the evaluation of newly diagnosed COPD among veterans, determine the patient characteristics that may influence the adherence rate, and compare VA concordance rates to those of other health plans. Methods—Administrative health care data related to Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) veterans was used to identify newly diagnosed COPD cases and the proportion of cases receiving spirometry. Cases were defined as veterans who had their first medical encounter with a coded diagnosis of COPD ≥ 6 months after their initial VA health care evaluation. The relationship between prediagnostic and comorbid conditions and the administration of CPG-concordant spirometry was examined using regression analyses. Findings—Among the 923,646 OEF/OIF/OND veterans receiving VA health care between January 2002 and December 2014, 32,076 (3%) had a coded diagnosis of COPD. Among those, 22,156 (69%) were identified as newly diagnosed COPD cases; only 6,827 (31%) had CPGconcordant spirometry. Concordant spirometry was more likely to occur in veterans aged ≥40. A pre-existing tobacco use disorder marginally changed the concordance rate. Discussion—VA provider adherence to CPG-concordant spirometry would decrease the prevalence of false-positive COPD cases and lead to more targeted disease treatment. Future research should focus on such cases by assessing the association between COPD diagnosis and bronchodilator responsiveness