Canadian Respiratory Guidelines

2013 CTS COPD Action Plan

2013 CTS COPD Action Plan

Tools and Resources

Guideline Rank 1(view ranking chart)

COPD Action Plan Instructions for Fillable PDF

English Version: Updated CTS COPD Action Plan

La version française: Mise à jour: Plan d'action MPOC


The goal of a COPD Action Plan is to help those with COPD prevent and manage exacerbations in conjunction with the healthcare professional team (the physician*, the certified respiratory educator and the pharmacist), i.e., collaborative self-management. The healthcare professional team should complete/review the following information with the patient:

  • a list of persons to contact when he/she needs help
  • a list of baseline symptoms and the actions to be taken to stay well (green zone)
  • the symptoms indicating worsening COPD and the actions to be taken to manage the exacerbation (yellow zone)
  • the symptoms which require urgent treatment (red zone)

Early and appropriate intervention may help to prevent or minimize the impact of an exacerbation.

REMEMBER: The COPD Action Plan is a tool to facilitate communication between the COPD patient and his/her healthcare professional team. Once completed, the Action Plan should be brought to each follow-up visit, reviewed regularly and modified as necessary. Follow up should include a discussion on past exacerbations and how the patient used their Action Plan and managed flare-ups. 

A certified respiratory educator or other qualified member of the healthcare professional team should discuss and review the document with the COPD patient to ensure he/she:

  • has a clear understanding of how to recognize worsening COPD symptoms; and
  • is confident in knowing when and what actions are to be taken based on the severity of symptoms, including when to fill the prescription for additional medications and when to seek urgent/emergent medical attention.

CAUTION:  To be successful, the COPD patient must achieve behavioral change through collaborative self-management, although this is not without risk. Recently, it has been shown in a large clinical trial that patients engaged in a collaborative self-management program, which included the use of an Action Plan, could have unexpected negative outcomes, including increased risk of death.

The COPD Action Plan consists of two parts:

Part I includes written instructions on what actions should be taken by the person with COPD based on symptoms (sputum and shortness of breath) in the green, yellow and red zones. It includes three copies, a copy for the patient, the physician and the respiratory educator. Any member of the healthcare professional team can begin the process for completing the Action Plan.

Part II includes a prescription for medications to be initiated in the case of sustained worsening symptoms. It is completed by a physician. It also includes three copies, a copy for the patient, the physician and the pharmacist.


  1. Completing the first page of Part I of the Action Plan will automatically populate the physician and educator copies. The first page of Part II will automatically populate the physician and pharmacist copies.
  2. Please ensure the physician signs the pharmacist’s copy of the Action Plan. In order for the prescription to be accepted by the pharmacist, an original signature from the physician is required on the pharmacist’s copy of the Action Plan.

*or nurse practitioner

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© 2013 Canadian Thoracic Society and its licensors

All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be modified, posted on-line or used for any commercial purposes without the prior written permission of the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS).  This file is the intellectual property of the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS).  

Download CTS COPD Action Plan.pdf