March 21, 2016
EDMONTON — Children with asthma could soon be breathing easier thanks to new research that promises to put a treatment guide directly into their electronic medical record with their family physician to ensure they receive the best evidence-based care.
The Alberta Primary Care Pathway for Childhood Asthma — funded by a $750,000 grant from The Partnership for Research and Innovation between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) — will introduce this innovative mechanism to 22 medical practices across the province as a trial run to assess its benefits in managing childhood asthma in primary care settings. If the results are positive, a full provincial rollout is envisioned.
The three-year study from researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary is designed to help health professionals prescribe the right medication and to encourage parents to fill and use their child’s prescription properly. To this end, doctors will be given a “decision-making tree” right in the child's electronic medical record to help make their diagnosis while their staff will receive more training to provide education on asthma treatments.
“What we’re attempting to improve is physician and parent management of asthma for their children,” says Dr. Andrew Cave, a family physician and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “So we developed a template that can be inserted into a patient’s electronic records for the doctor; they can click on it when a child with asthma comes through, and follow the path so the patient gets managed ideally.”
“By ensuring that family practitioners have a convenient tool that helps them provide the optimal therapy, and by instructing the chronic-disease nurses in family practitioners’ offices on how to best educate parents to manage their kids with asthma, we offer the best chance to prevent kids from having to visit Emergency or be hospitalized,” says Dr. David Johnson, Senior Medical Director of the AHS Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network, and Professor of Paediatrics, Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine.
Drs. Cave and Johnson, who lead the project, are also both members the AHS Respiratory Health Strategic Clinical Network — the driving force behind the grant application — and a provincewide team which helps guide clinical research and care in Alberta.
“Changing the way health system solves complicated problems, comes from research. The work that Drs. Andrew Cave and David Johnson are doing underscores this,” says Dr. Pamela Valentine, CEO Interim of Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. “Asthma can cause a lifetime of suffering. Using evidence to inform a solution to the problem, ultimately leads to improved health both for Albertans and people around the world.”
As well as nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians will also be trained to talk with parents — many of whom fail to pick up or understand the importance of their child’s prescription — and address their concerns over cost and assure them of the safety of steroid-based medications.
Katherine Carlson of Edmonton and her two-year-old son Gabriel both have asthma, which she manages daily with their inhalers and steroid medication.
“I’ve had a few scary moments with Gabriel,” says the administrative assistant. “We’ve been in the ED I don’t know how many times. Every time he gets a cold, he can’t breathe — so we end up going to Emergency to get it under control.”
“Having an electronic guide will be beneficial. Everyone will have access to the same information. We’ll know exactly what Gabriel is being treated for.”
The work of Drs. Cave and Johnson builds on the earlier success of the Alberta Childhood Asthma Pathway (a way to deliver standard health care) that was rolled out over the past three years. Now in use at 105 AHS sites — including all emergency departments, urgent care centres and hospitals — it ensures kids get the best asthma care no matter where they live.
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood, with at least 50 per cent of patients having poor control that results in frequent emergency treatment. As they promote greater and proper use of asthma medications, researchers also hope to reduce healthcare costs by decreasing the need for emergency department visits and hospital stays.
“That’s a lot of kids who would be so much better,” says Dr. Cave.
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Alberta Primary Care Pathway for Childhood Asthma partners are: Alberta Health Services – Respiratory Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, University of Edmonton, University of Calgary, Health Quality Council of Alberta, Southern Alberta Primary Care Research Network, Northern Alberta Primary Care Research Network and Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.
The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta is a leader in educating and training exceptional practitioners and researchers of the highest international standards.
Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions supports research and innovation activities to improve the health and well-being of Albertans and create health-related social and economic benefits for Albertans.