The management of asthma and COPD treatment is centred on the use of inhaled therapies, and consequently relies on patients using prescribed inhaler devices correctly. However, studies have demonstrated that most patients make errors using inhaler devices and many make such serious errors that would critically affect the delivered dose,1 which suggests that there is a major unmet education and training need to ensure optimal use of inhaler devices.
Despite this, the patient and doctor perspectives survey from Team Consulting demonstrate that most patients prescribed inhaler devices believe that inhaler technique training is not important: 42% thought that no training was needed, and 43% thought they only needed to be taught correct inhaler technique on one occasion only. This contrasts with research and experience that most patients need to have their inhaler technique repeated and reinforced regularly to ensure long-term competence.
This survey also highlighted that patients prefer training on medical devices to be provided in person by a doctor or nurse, rather than via written instructions, online tutorials, smartphone app. This finding is interesting as we also know that patients are better at learning how to use inhaler devices correctly when education is provided by healthcare professionals in the form of face-to-face education sessions and correct technique demonstrated to the patient.2 Consequently, we as healthcare professionals should appreciate that patients do want us to talk to them about how to use their medicines correctly, and that providing patients with written information leaflets is not sufficient to provide a favourable experience.
As a pharmacist, I was disappointed that this survey did not include patient opinions of pharmacists (or other healthcare professionals), although this was done to make the survey concise and easy to complete. I see no reason why patients should not have similarly favourable opinions of pharmacists or other healthcare professionals, all of whom can provide similar education and training to patients.
Community pharmacists in particular have regular and repeated contact with patients prescribed medicines and medical devices for long-term conditions. This regular contact places pharmacists in the ideal position to provide much needed education and training on how to use medical devices correctly on a regular basis to achieve improved health outcomes.
1. Molimard M et al. Journal of Aerosol Medicine 2003;16:249-54
2. Basheti IA et al. Respir Care 2005;50:617-23.
About Toby Capstick, BSc MRPharmS DipClinPharm:
Lead Respiratory Pharmacist, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – Toby graduated from Aston University in 1999 and worked for 3 years at the Bradford Hospitals, before moving to Leeds and has worked as the Lead Respiratory Pharmacist at St. James’s University Hospital since 2005. He is a Joint Chair of the UKCPA Respiratory Group, and is a member of the National Inhaler Group and the British Thoracic Society Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Clinical Advice Service. He has published widely amongst his areas of interest including the management of tuberculosis, difficult asthma, COPD and inhaler technique.