Does Your Spirometry Measure Up?

man blowing out candles spirometry

By Robyn Frechette

Or are you blowing it?

Spirometry is the most commonly used test for pulmonary function diagnostics, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean that the patients performing the tests and the technicians conducting the tests are well-seasoned experts. In fact, many times subpar efforts that do not meet ATS standards are passed along for interpretation and this can cause trouble for the patient and the doctor.

See the 2019 – 2020 PFT Buyer’s Guide here.

Consider this example; a firefighter receives a routine spirometry test and his results identified a severe obstructive disease as well as a restrictive component. Due to this test result, he was placed on leave from his duty as a firefighter, resulting in stress, loss of wages, and concern of his debilitating lung disease.

He was then scheduled for a complete PFT test and much to everyone’s surprise, his lung function was at 115% above the predicted value. With proper testing and focus on quality, this could have been avoided entirely.

Not only can a misdiagnosis occur with poor test quality, but also over/under prescribing of medication, and potential legal issues in the future. When a doctor signs off on this test with their interpretation, the incorrect diagnosis is in the patient’s medical record, which can result in future denials for life insurance and other opportunities. In this case, the patient suffered a temporary job loss, but misdiagnosis can most certainly lead to an increase in stress on the patient and loss of satisfaction and trust in the healthcare organization, not to mention the increased cost of treatment for the patient and healthcare organization(s).

Many of these reasons are exactly why Morgan Scientific has worked closely with healthcare organizations to develop highly accurate and intuitive hardware and software to help get the best efforts out of the patient. In fact, some of our quality measures have been adopted by the ATS design standards for a good effort on a flow-volume loop test.

Each test is assigned ATS checkmarks for acceptability and reproducibility as well as quality stars for confidence in the test. There is also an alert for tests that do not meet these standards and an explanation of why not and how to correct it. All these factors combined with the simplicity of running a test by the click of the spacebar and allowing the technician to focus on the patient and not the computer, help you get the highest quality test possible. Combine that with our video game incentive graphics and thorough training, and your test quality should drastically improve and cases like this can be avoided.

While spirometry may be a very common PFT, it is important to conduct the test with diligence and proper coaching to get the best results possible and avoid misdiagnosis. A misdiagnosis can be much more than a simple error as there is also a cost associated with it and additional ramifications, including legal, that can have a longer effect on a patient’s lifestyle going forward. Take the time to coach patients and work with them to get the best effort possible!

Robyn Frechette is the National Sales Manager at Morgan Scientific. This article was republished with permission from Morgan Scientific. Find out more about their pulmonary function testing equipment here.

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