Asthma is a chronic condition that is treatable and controllable but not curable. Sufferers often describe the feelings of an asthmatic attack as a metal band squeezing their chest. The traditional model of managing patient care doesn’t work for complicated chronic problems like asthma. A more creative way of management is to provide a disease manager or asthma coach who helps several children with asthma through their treatment plans.
Millions of American children suffer from asthma and only within the past 15 years have physicians found adequate ways of controlling this condition. Unfortunately both children and adults today don’t always get the right treatment because many people don’t realize that asthma requires two types of medication to adequately control the condition.
Think of the lungs as being too irritable and when they are exposed to a trigger, such as pet dander or smoke, the muscle fibers around the bronchioles constrict causing the wheezing sound that is so indicative of asthma. Rescue drugs are used to control the constriction and make the muscles relax.
The bronchioles or tiny airways can also become swollen and filled with fluid which is triggered from other types of substances. Rescue drugs don’t fix this type of problem. Instead controllers like inhaled steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs are used to decrease the inflammation and improve the oxygen exchange.
Studies show that patients do not always receive the correct medication or the correct types of medication. In a 2000 study published in Pediatrics researchers found that only one in four children with asthma received controller medications.
And in a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine researchers reported that only half of the doctors gave their patients written asthma plans and only 40% prescribed controllers.
Even when children are prescribed controllers, according to a 2002 Pediatrics paper, only half received them because the parents weren’t giving them. Some parents are fearful that the medications are habit forming or addictive. While others fear the children will become used to the medication and it won’t work anymore.
One of the ways that asthma sufferers are able to learn to manage their illness is to use an asthma management plan. The written management plan should include all known triggers to the asthma, the normal peak flow values, normal end expiratory volume values, controlling and rescue medications, activity limitations, emergency phone numbers and the signatures of the sufferer and the parent if that is appropriate.
Another option for management are asthma coaches, offered by a growing number of health plans. An asthma coach is often employed by insurance companies and health plans to help decrease insurance company costs for unplanned emergency room and urgent care visits.
The asthma coach regularly reviews a patient’s history to ensure the right medications are prescribed and being given. They coordinate with the doctor to arrange follow up visits and contacts the families to assure that the treatment is progressing forward.
The use of an asthma coach has been shown to decrease costs to the insurance company and to the patient. Patients have decreased number of emergency room visits and office visits to treat asthma attacks. An ounce of prevention is truly worth the pound of cure. Asthmatics who avoid their triggers will often find they use less rescue medications and are under better control. And an asthma coach can help provide all of the