Managing multimorbidity in primary care in patients with chronic respiratory conditions

15 Sep 2016


The term multimorbidity is usually defined as the coexistence of two or more chronic conditions within an individual, whereas the term comorbidity traditionally describes patients with an index condition and one or more additional conditions. Multimorbidity of chronic conditions markedly worsens outcomes in patients, increases treatment burden and increases health service costs. Although patients with chronic respiratory disease often have physical comorbidities, they also commonly experience psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Multimorbidity is associated with increased health-care utilisation and specifically with an increased number of prescription drugs in individuals with multiple chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine Education Section case study involves a patient in a primary care consultation presenting several common diseases prevalent in people of this age. The patient takes nine different drugs at this moment, one or more pills for each condition, which amounts to polypharmacy. The problems related with polypharmacy recommend that a routine medication review by primary care physicians be performed to reduce the risk of adverse effects of polypharmacy among those with multiple chronic conditions. The primary care physician has the challenging role of integrating all of the clinical problems affecting the patient and reviewing all medicaments (including over-the-counter medications) taken by the patient at any point in time, and has the has the key to prevent the unwanted consequences of polypharmacy. Multimorbid chronic disease management can be achieved with the use of care planning, unified disease templates, use of information technology with appointment reminders and with the help of the wider primary care and community teams.

Resource information

Respiratory conditions
  • Multi-morbidity
Respiratory topics
  • Disease management
Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Morrison D, Agur K, Mercer S, Eiras A, González-Montalvo JI, Gruffydd-Jones K