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September 13, 2023 0

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., making them more deadly than conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.1 The good news is that there are several medications available to treat this group of illnesses, which include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and improve these individuals’ quality of life. But many patients aren’t having the conversations necessary to make that happen.

COPD patients’ symptoms include cough and shortness of breath.2 However, COPD manifests differently from patient to patient and sometimes develops very slowly. The lack of a clear signal that something is wrong means people need prompting to talk to their doctor about their breathing problems.

“Many people don’t even know they have COPD. They experience symptoms that they consider part of normal life progression and essentially learn to live with them,” says Norbert Feigler, MD, Senior Medical Director, Respiratory at AstraZeneca. “Estimates [suggest] as many as half of American COPD patients [are] not yet diagnosed.”

As COPD progresses, daily activities become more difficult, but the process is gradual. An individual may start to walk more slowly or avoid going up steps, incrementally—and often imperceptibly—adapting their lives so that they don’t get out of breath. When their physician asks how they’re doing, they may say they are fine, minimizing their experiences because they have adapted to an undiagnosed illness

That scenario creates an ideal opportunity for direct-to-consumer messaging, particularly at the point of care. If campaigns can help patients recognize that their symptoms and subtle lifestyle changes may be signs of a lung disease, they can encourage conversations between patients and their doctors that may lead to more timely treatment. And, since COPD-related lung damage is permanent, cutting the time to diagnosis can only improve outcomes.

“It can be particularly mentally and emotionally tolling when a patient is first diagnosed, knowing the damage to their lungs is irreversible,” Dr. Feigler says. “This is why it’s important for patients to recognize the signs and symptoms of COPD, driving earlier diagnosis, and ultimately allowing physicians to employ a more proactive approach to disease management.”

Point-of-care campaigns can play a vital role in minimizing that damage, as well as its psychological toll, by encouraging patients to talk to their physician when they first notice possible signs of COPD. Such campaigns can help those who are already diagnosed, too. A Phreesia survey of 1,994 COPD patients found that fewer than half (44%) of diagnosed COPD patients had had detailed discussions with their doctor about their breathing symptoms. In a potentially related finding, 34% of respondents said they lacked a full understanding of their condition.

Those results suggest that COPD patients may be missing out on treatments and lifestyle changes that could improve their quality of life and health outcomes. Albert Rizzo, MD, FACP, Chief Medical Officer at the American Lung Association, explains how educational campaigns can benefit COPD patients.

“One of the best things to help a COPD patient is to educate them about the importance of staying active” Dr. Rizzo says. “You don’t have to do 30 minutes on a treadmill every day, but walking to the mailbox, doing the steps once or twice a day, just trying to maintain a level of activity, can go a long way in helping them feel like they have better control in their day-to-day activities.”

An estimated 12.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, but even more are living with the disease without a diagnosis. Those numbers indicate that DTC campaigns that change the awareness and behaviors of even a fraction of those suffering with COPD can have a huge impact and address a great unmet need by encouraging patients and providers to work together to identify symptoms, diagnose COPD earlier and ultimately shift the standard of care to a proactive approach to disease management.


  1. “Leading Causes of Death,” National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jan. 18, 2023.
  2. Lee, Y.-C., Chang, K.-Y. & Sethi, S. Association of Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease With County Health Disparities in New York State. JAMA Netw Open.2021;4(11):e2134268. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.34268

Nick Paul Taylor


March 10, 2023 0

Clearly understanding their diagnosis and treatment plan is vital for cancer patients in order for them to have an optimal treatment experience. In fact, studies have linked patient education to reduced depression and side effects from cancer therapies. Yet new data shows there are critical gaps in cancer patients’ knowledge about their condition and treatment.

Results from 825 patients diagnosed with or treated for cancer who were surveyed on Phreesia’s PatientInsights platform as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments revealed the breadth of that knowledge gap: More than one-third (34%) of surveyed patients were unaware of how advanced their cancer was.

That’s a percentage that Justin Holko, Vice President and head of the Global Oncology/Hematology Commercial Business Unit at Regeneron, finds troubling. Shubh Goel, Vice President and U.S. franchise head for Immuno-oncology and Gastrointestinal Tumors at AstraZeneca, shares his concerns, calling the statistic “a challenge for our industry to do better.”

Other survey findings further reinforced the conclusion that too many cancer patients are in the dark about important aspects of their condition and treatment. More than one-third (34%) of survey respondents said they lacked a clear understanding of their cancer therapy before starting treatment, while 17% understood their treatment “somewhat,” and a further 17% had little to no understanding of their treatment.

Similarly, only 35% of patients said they had undergone genetic or biomarker testing for their cancer, and 24% were unsure whether or not they had received such testing. The remaining 41% of surveyed patients did not undergo genetic or biomarker testing, depriving them and their physicians of insights that could have informed their care.

Holko sees those findings as evidence of the need for medical, commercial and research and development teams to make sure that every patient, caregiver, nurse and doctor has the opportunity to learn about all of the options available to them. But providing that education, particularly to patients, requires thoughtfulness: When communicating with patients at vulnerable points in their cancer journey, how information is conveyed is just as important as the knowledge itself.

“It’s not just your delivery of the education and facts, but doing it in a way that is uncomplicated, easy to understand, not overwhelming and that makes people feel like they’re equipped with the tools they need to go talk to their doctor or better understand their condition,” Holko explains. “It has to be done in a very personal way.”

Cancer-therapy drugmakers also play an important role in helping patients understand their diagnosis and treatment pathways. “Because we develop and make these cancer treatments, we have the opportunity to be an ally and an educator,” Goel says, highlighting the need “to work hand-in-hand with advocacy partners to advance dialogue with patients and grow our education efforts.”

Additional survey results indicated avenues for activating patients and improving their understanding of their cancer and available therapies. A majority (69%) of surveyed patients said they had sought resources beyond their healthcare provider to learn more about their illness. Online searches (48%), general cancer websites (36%) and specific cancer websites (32%) were cited as the most widely accessed resources.

Meeting patients where they are can better address their knowledge gaps and ultimately improve their cancer treatment, Holko says, pointing to the need for market research that can shed more light on how different patients find and absorb cancer information.

“It really comes down to understanding who your patients are and using every channel available to you to reach the right patient at the right time in a very personalized way,” he says.


Nick Paul Taylor