This study explores the use of spirometry in primary care settings.
A 4-page survey was mailed to a national, random sample of office-based family physicians and pediatricians. Survey items addressed knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding spirometry and standardized clinical vignettes. Data were analyzed by using χ2 tests and multivariate logistic regression.
Among the 360 respondents who provided care to children with asthma, 52% used spirometry in clinical practice, whereas 80% used peak flow meters and 10% used no lung function tests. Only 21% routinely used spirometry for all guideline-recommended clinical situations. More family physicians than pediatricians reported using spirometry (75% vs 35%; P < .0001), and family physicians were more comfortable in interpreting spirometric results (50% vs 25%; P < .0001). Only one-half of respondents interpreted correctly the spirometric results in a standardized clinical vignette, and the frequency of underrating asthma severity increased with the inclusion of spirometric results. The most common barriers to the use of spirometry, that is, time and training, were cited more often by physicians who did not use spirometry. Two-thirds of respondents agreed that they would want additional training regarding implementing spirometry in their clinical practices.
The use of spirometry in primary care settings for children with asthma does not conform to national guidelines. Widespread implementation of national asthma guidelines likely would require a major educational initiative to address deficiencies in spirometry interpretation and other barriers.