Carolinas Asthma Coach

Child Health | one month ago

Using Technology to Help Kids Control Asthma and Prevent Asthma Attacks

According to the CDC, about 1 in 12 children in the US have asthma, which can lead to missed school days, hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Atrium Health clinicians, patients and researchers have developed an interactive, web-based tool to help patients, their caregivers and providers create an action plan to manage asthma symptoms and lead healthy, active lives.

In the United States, asthma affects the health and quality of life of more than 10 million children. Many patients with asthma struggle to control symptoms and asthma exacerbations are the leading cause of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and missed school days.

Elizabeth Burton's, RN, pediatric program manager with Community Care Partners of Greater Mecklenburg, daughter Kati has struggled with asthma her entire life. Asthma hits her the hardest when seasons change; when cold and flu numbers peak and pollen blankets our cars. Other triggers, like dust and mold, are common warning signs for Kati, but it wasn't until age 15 she started taking her asthma seriously, thanks to Carolinas Asthma Coach.

Developed and piloted at Atrium Health, Carolinas Asthma Coach is a web-based platform designed to provide a unique patient-centered experience to help patients suffering from asthma, and their caregivers, truly understand what asthma is and how it is treated. The interactive, digital experience – incorporating characters, sports and humor – engages patients, caregivers and their doctors in a tailored conversation about asthma.

"The ‘coach’ determined Kati wasn't taking her medication as often as she needed," says Burton, who also serves as co-author for the Carolinas Asthma Coach study. "We found her providers needed to increase her medication dosage and meet regularly with her pediatrician and pulmonologist. The ‘coach’ helped move her in a direction where she has more control, feels more empowered and can acknowledge the symptoms quicker to stay on track with managing her asthma."

So, how does it work?

  1. Before a visit with their doctor, a pediatric patient and her/his caregiver engage with Carolinas Asthma Coach and receive tailored education about asthma, triggers and treatments.
  2. Carolinas Asthma Coach gathers information about goals, adherence and symptoms and provides personalized recommendations for both the patient and provider.
  3. The patient, caregiver and provider share in the decision-making and create a personalized treatment plan at the point of care.

Andy McWilliams, MD, author of the Carolinas Asthma Coach study and principal investigator, explains the end goal is to help patients, caregivers and providers have a more productive doctor visit and ensure they are all equally involved in creating a feasible and sustainable action plan to maintain the patient's asthma.

Led by a multidisciplinary team of Atrium Health clinicians, patients and researchers, Carolinas Asthma Coach was implemented and piloted in four pediatric, family medicine clinics and children’s emergency department to evaluate the effects and feasibility of the platform in pediatric care settings. Since its pilot, results showed that 90 percent of participants and caregivers engaged and shared in the treatment decision with their provider, patients' knowledge and understanding of asthma improved on average from 52 percent to 77 percent, and 100 percent responded they would recommend Carolinas Asthma Coach to a friend.

"Having asthma myself – and having practiced in several city hospitals where unique environment triggers cause major exacerbations for patients – It’s incredible to be involved in this work to help offer patients a new alternative to treatment plans in order to better control asthma," says Cheryl Courtlandt, MD, pediatrician and co-author for Carolinas Asthma Coach. "Carolinas Asthma Coach benefits both the provider and the patient. It is a time-saver, allowing the provider and the patient to focus on the areas you need to act on and implement a sustainable treatment plan.”

What's next for Carolinas Asthma Coach? Kelly Reeves, RN, Department of Family Medicine and co-author for Carolinas Asthma Coach, says in response to user feedback, the tool is currently being revised to include five- and six-year-old patients, translated into Spanish, and enable the platform to be accessed from home or clinic. Once the 2.0 version is completed, Carolinas Asthma Coach will be implemented in Levine Children’s Hospital Emergency Department to evaluate its success for patients visiting the ED for asthma-related needs.

"By implementing the first version in four practices, we saw it's a successful and useful tool to increase engagement and shared decision making in creating a treatment plan " says Reeves. "But it will be exciting to see how 2.0 version of Carolinas Asthma Coach could potentially help decrease unnecessary ED visits and lower costs overall for patients."

If interested in learning more about Carolinas Asthma Coach, please contact Kelly Reeves at Kelly.Reeves@AtriumHealth.org.