Stand by for some grim statistics. Chronic Respiratory Diseases (COPD) in the U.S. is reaching epidemic proportions. An estimated 28 million are affected, and in addition, 400,00 workers develop occupationally related disorders annually. The associated costs total $61.2 billion annually – 22.2 billion incurred for treatment and care and 39 billion due to losses in industrial output due to morbidity and mortality of skilled workers.

Since spirometry is the only test available to the primary care physician for the early detection of COPD (early being defined as “before significant symptoms occur”), this test can be considered an important element in a company’s risk management program.

If one is to define Risk Management as “the identification, evaluation and control of threats to the business enterprise such as: competition, new technology, restrictive legislation, government interference and fines, loss of skilled workers due to morbidity or mortality, increased worker compensation and health care, insurance costs, and increased risk of litigation by workers,” then an effective Respiratory Health Surveillance Program is mandatory.

The success of such a program is dependent on:

  • Spirometry equipment that meets the ATS/ERS 2019 standardization of spirometry ISO standards
  • Technicians and nurses who perform spirometry being certified by attending a NIOSH approved training course
  • Use of written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)
  • Data to be read by knowledgeable overreaders trained in spirometry interpretation

Sound like a big order? Nothing compared to playing catch-up after the fact with lawsuits, stiff audit penalties, even the old red tag cease and desist order. Front end preparation saves some nightmare rear end disasters.