Editorial

It takes a village to care for the patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

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General practitioners may assess for features suggesting connective tissue disease that would warrant specific serologic testing and dedicated rheumatologic consultation.

Finally, given the rarity, complexity, and challenges of interstitial lung disease, an effective multidisciplinary team consisting of clinicians, radiologists, and pathologists enhances diagnostic accuracy. 9 This may also help general practitioners deviate from normal patterns of referral to general pulmonary providers, and instead refer patients to specialized centers with dedicated clinical and research expertise in interstitial lung disease.

IMPLEMENTING A COMPREHENSIVE, LONGITUDINAL CARE PLAN

The primary care practitioner often has developed long-term relationships with patients ultimately diagnosed with IPF, and because of this is particularly well positioned to help implement a collaborative and comprehensive care plan. Logistical realities such as distance to a specialty center, limited insurance coverage for specialty visits, and limited specialty availability all reinforce the central role that primary care practitioners play in ensuring that patients adhere to a comprehensive treatment program.

Primary providers may be very experienced and more inclined to manage a number of the common and often important comorbid conditions seen in patients with IPF, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and depression. Reinforcing to the patient the need to adhere to adjunctive therapies such as supplemental oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation is another key opportunity to actively engage in the management of patients with IPF.

Primary providers may also play a central role in IPF care through prevention strategies such as smoking cessation and ensuring appropriate immunization against seasonal influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, and pertussis, among other age-appropriate vaccinations.

With the introduction and expansion of use of nintedanib and pirfenidone for IPF over the past few years, general practitioners may be called on to help manage common gastrointestinal side effects associated with pirfenidone (primarily nausea) and nintedanib (primarily diarrhea), and to be aware of potential drug-drug interactions and other medication-related toxicities.

Finally, as IPF remains a progressive disease, primary care practitioners are often well positioned to help implement palliative care, hospice care, and end-of-life care.

Despite recent advances in treatment, IPF remains a devastating lung disease with a high degree of morbidity and mortality. It takes a village to help care for the IPF patient. And as key members of the healthcare team, primary care providers have unique and important opportunities to help in the early recognition, thorough assessment, and comprehensive management of patients with IPF.

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