Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: constraints in patient pathway and mitigation strategies

Ana S. Cunha, Beatriz Raposo, Filipe Dias, Susana Henriques, Hugo Martinho, Ana R. Pedro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Respiratory diseases, ranking the third in Portugal, contribute significantly to illness and mortality. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third-leading cause of death globally. Identifying high-risk individuals and implementing early treatment is crucial due to the variability of COPD symptoms and exacerbations. This study aimed to identify effective strategies for preventing exacerbations and complications. Methods: A Delphi involving 15 experts was performed. Experts included physicians, nurses, health managers, policymakers, public health experts, and patient organizations. Consensus was achieved at 73.3% for each strategy using a scale ranging from "agree"to "disagree."Three rounds were conducted to address six questions related to early diagnosis and patient follow-up. Challenges faced by the Portuguese Health System in managing COPD, obstacles in COPD exacerbation diagnosis and management, and effective strategies to overcome barriers were identified in the first round. The second and third rounds involved analyzing the gathered information and voting on each indicator to achieve consensus, respectively. Indicators were categorized into constraints and barriers, and strategies for reducing COPD exacerbations and disease burden. Results: Out of a total of 134 valid indicators generated, 108 achieved consensus. Among the indicators agreed upon by experts, 18 pertained to barriers, challenges, and constraints, while 90 focused on action strategies for COPD. Among the strategies formulated, 25 consensus indicators target prevention strategies, 24 consensus indicators aim to enhance COPD referrals, and 41 consensus indicators focus on mitigating COPD exacerbations and reducing the overall disease burden. Discussion/Conclusion: This study emphasizes the need for integrated investment in respiratory healthcare and recognition of the impact of COPD on patients, healthcare systems, and economies. Prevention and appropriate treatment of exacerbations are crucial for effective COPD management and reducing associated morbidity and mortality. Experts highlight the importance of improving coordination between different levels of care, integrating information systems, and decentralizing hospital responsibilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of individual and collective respiratory health, necessitating investment in health promotion and COPD awareness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPortuguese Journal of Public Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Delphi technique
  • Disease management
  • Health services accessibility


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