Fresno County Asthma Education Program Reduces ED Visits, Hospital Admissions
Teaching people with asthma about their condition can reduce trips to the emergency room and hospital admissions by more than half, according to a four-year study of the Asthma Education and Management Program at Community Medical Centers in Fresno County, the Fresno Bee reports. Under the program, respiratory therapists receive assignments in doctors' offices to evaluate asthma patients and to teach them how to manage their condition. The program began six years ago after it "became apparent that asthma was becoming a huge problem," Dr. David Pepper, a family practioner and program medical director, said. Fresno County has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, according to the Bee. Therapists were placed in doctors' offices at University Medical Center in 1997 and in offices of doctors affiliated with Sante, a Community Medical Centers-affiliated physicians group, in 1999. Even patients who have the "mildest asthma symptoms" are paired with a therapist. Pepper said, "We don't wait for our patients to get that sick. We hit all asthmatics equally, regardless of how mild or severe the disease has been diagnosed."
In the study of the program, which followed 2,000 people with asthma, researchers found a 70% reduction in hospital admissions, 60% fewer emergency room visits and a 50% drop in doctor appointments. Because of its success, the program has received recognition from the CDC, which asked researchers to discuss the program during a teleconference yesterday, the Bee reports. Dr. Sami Issa, who practices with Community Medical Providers and has a respiratory therapist in his office, said, "The patients' understanding of their health condition has really helped. And they seem to be able to take more control of their medications and how to use them and when to use them." Researchers are seeking funds to expand the program, with plans to put therapists in doctors' offices at the United Health Center in Parlier (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 4/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.