Do healthcare professionals have sufficient knowledge of inhaler techniques in order to educate their patients effectively in their use?

Medicines Management Collection
Publication date:
28 July 2011


Paper presented at the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting, Dec 2010.  Respiratory education and training issues: P94. Introduction and objectives: Inhalers are widely used in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  For patients to gain maximum benefit they need to be educated by competent healthcare professionals (HCPs) whose own competence meets accepted standards.  This study looked at HCPs ability to use the commonly prescribed metered dose inhaler (pMDI). Methods: 150 healthcare professionals (74 Primary Care Trust; 76 Acute Trust) were asked to demonstrate how they would self-administer a pMDI placebo inhaler.  The group included hospital doctors, hospital nurses, general practitioners, practice nurses, hospital and community pharmacy staff.  Each professional was marked against a standard set by the manufacturer and Education for Health UK.  They were also asked to demonstrate the correct inspiratory flow rate using the In-check dial device. Results: Of the 150 HCPs assessed only 11 (7%) could demonstrate all the recognised steps in administration including assessment of inspiratory flow using the In-check device.  113 (75%) of the HCPs said they were involved in the teaching of inhaler technique.  Of these 113, 11 (9%) could demonstrate all the recognised steps (n = 10, PCT; n = 1, acute trust).  Of the 150, 72 (48%) were prescribers or were involved in prescribing.  94 (63%) had received some training on inhaler technique in the past of whom 64 (67%) said the training took place more than a year before. Conclusions: If we are going to adequately educate our patients with regard to their inhaler usage we as HCPs need to be competent in how each device works.  Incorrect teaching and assessment will increase use of healthcare resources, waste medication, and mean worsening symptoms and poor control of airways disease for our patients.