Electronic tool has potential to improve asthma care, study finds

15 February 2019

A new electronic decision support tool for managing asthma has the potential to improve the quality of asthma care in primary care settings, as the result of a new study led by St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

The research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, aimed to determine whether the Electronic Asthma Management System (eAMS) could help close existing gaps in asthma care. The system is a first-of-its-kind evidence-based computerised decision support tool.

“We have excellent therapies for this disease, yet most patients do not receive the best care, and as a result, are poorly controlled,” said Dr Samir Gupta, lead researcher and associate scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital. “There are many barriers facing busy primary care physicians in providing the best care, including lack of time, knowledge, training, and local resources. We sought to try to overcome these barriers by leveraging the power of technology.”

Researchers followed 23 physicians for two years across three large family health teams, assessing care provided to 1,272 unique patients with asthma. They analysed baseline care for one year, then integrated the eAMS into the practices and monitored care for another year to identify changes in the quality of care. The evaluation of an electronic tool builds on recent research led by Dr Gupta that found that significant gaps persist in asthma care in these areas across the province.

With the eAMS, asthma control assessment increased from 14%-59% of patients. The self-management tool also increased the proportion of patients who received an asthma action plan from 0%-18%. Asthma control assessment and action plans have been key recommendations in asthma care guidelines for more than 20 years.  

Dr Gupta and his team hope to provide access to the eAMS to all family physicians in Canada. The next steps will include integrating the system across the different electronic medical record systems in use across Canada, conducting further studies to show its impact on patient health, and adding additional features to the tool.

"In the future, we also hope to use the valuable lessons learned in this study to design similar tools for other chronic diseases," Dr Gupta said.



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