16 July 2020
Previous studies have shown that opportunities to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) early are often missed in primary care. This retrospective study aimed to utilize secondary data from the United Kingdom (UK) healthcare system to understand the impact of early versus late diagnosis of COPD.
Newly diagnosed COPD patients were identified in the UK Clinical Practice Research Database from 2011 to 2014. Patients whose 5-year medical data before diagnosis revealed ≥3 counts of eight indicators of early COPD were deemed as late-diagnosed, whereas others were deemed as early-diagnosed. We assessed patients’ characteristics; time-to-first, risk, and rates of exacerbation; and healthcare resource utilization (COPD-related clinic visits, Accident and Emergency visits, and hospitalizations) in late- versus early-diagnosed patients.
Of 10,158 patients included in the study, 6783 (67%) were identified as late-diagnosed and 3375 (33%) as early-diagnosed. The median time-to-first exacerbation was shorter in late-diagnosed (14.5 months) versus early-diagnosed (29.0 months) patients, with a significant risk of exacerbation (hazard ratio 1.46 [95% confidence interval: 1.38–1.55]). Additionally, the exacerbation rate (per 100 person-years) over 3 years was higher in late (108.9) versus early (57.2) diagnosed patients. Late-diagnosed patients had a significantly higher rate of COPD hospitalizations (per 1000 patient years) compared with early-diagnosed patients during 2 and 3 years of follow-ups ( P = 0.0165 and P < 0.0001, respectively).
Results showed that a significant percentage of COPD patients in UK primary care are diagnosed late. A late COPD diagnosis is associated with a shorter time-to-first exacerbation and a higher rate and risk of exacerbations compared with early diagnosis. Additionally, late diagnosis of COPD is associated with a higher rate of COPD-related hospitalizations compared with early diagnosis.