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Open Access Research article

Consultation performance of general practitioners when supported by an asthma/COPDC-service

Lucas EM Annelies1*, Derckx WCC Emmy2, Meulepas A Marianne3, Smeele JM Ivo4, Smeenk WJM Frank5 and van Schayck P Onno1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice (HAG), Research Institute Caphri, University Maastricht, PO box 616, Maastricht, MD, 6200, The Netherlands

2 Stichting Kwaliteit en Ontwikkeling Huisartsenzorg, PO box 2155, Eindhoven, CD, 5600, The Netherlands

3 Meetpunt Kwaliteit, PO box 6406, EINDHOVEN, HK, 5600, The Netherlands

4 CAHAG, NHG, Domus Medica, PO box 3231, Utrecht, GE, 3502, The Netherlands

5 Department of Pulmonary Diseases & Tuberculosis,Catharina Hospital, PO box 1350, Eindhoven, ZA, 5602, The Netherlands

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:368  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-368

Published: 23 July 2012



General practitioners (GPs) can refer patients to an asthma/COPD service (AC-service) for diagnostic assessment of spirometry and medical history and for asthma or COPD monitoring. The AC-service reports diagnostic results and additional information about disease burden (BORG-score for complaints, MRC-dyspnoea score, exacerbation rate), life style, medication and compliance, to the patient’s GP. This study explores how GPs use this additional information when discussing the patient’s disease burden and how this influences GPs’ information and education provision during consultations with asthma/COPD patients.


Patients with (a suspicion of) asthma or COPD were referred to an AC-service and consulted their GPs after they had received a report from the AC-service. Retrospectively patients answered questions about their GPs’ performance during these consultations. Performances were compared with performances of the same GPs during consultations without support of the AC-service (usual care), earlier that year.


Of consultations not initiated by an AC-service check-up, 91% focussed on complaints, the initial reason for the consultation. In AC-service supported follow-up consultations, GPs explored disease burden when the (BORG-)score for complaints was high - as reported by the AC-service - even when patients themselves thought it was irrelevant. GPs put significantly less effort in exploring disease burden when the Borg-score was low (BORG 3–4: 69%; BORG1-2: 51%, p = 0,01). GPs mostly ignored MRC-dyspnoea scores: attention to dyspnoea was 18% for MRC-score <3 and 25% for MRC-score ≥3 (p = 0,63). GPs encouraged physical fitness in 13% of patients. Smoking behaviour was discussed with 66% of the actual smokers but only 14% remembered a stop smoking advice. Furthermore, pharmacotherapeutic management education in AC-service supported consultations did not differ from performance in usual care according to patient evaluations.


Other than taking into account the severity of complaints, there was no difference between GPs’ performance in AC-service supported and in usual care consultations. AC-service reports are thus not effective by themselves. GPs should be encouraged to use the information better and systematically check all relevant aspects that characterize the disease burden of their patients.