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Asthma Health Outcomes Project

Overviews of Surveyed Asthma ProgramsSeptember 2005

Domestic Programs: Massachusetts Back to Index

A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Pediatric Asthma Outreach Program

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation

Boston, MA

Paula Parks, RN, NP

Previous studies have shown that asthma education and case management may reduce asthma emergency care, hospitalizations, and expenditures.

Researchers sought to study the effect of an asthma outreach program (AOP), a team-based, case-management intervention, on emergency ward (EW) and hospital use.

Fifty-seven patients aged 1 to 15 years with the diagnosis of asthma based on the usual clinical practice criteria who were continuously enrolled in a staff-model health maintenance organization for a period of at least 2 consecutive years were randomized into 2 intervention groups. The control group received a single intensive asthma education intervention, and the AOP group received the same initial education but then was followed-up by an asthma case management nurse throughout the intervention period.

EW visits, hospitalizations, and total outside-of-health-plan expenditures (consisting of EW and hospital expenses, as well as miscellaneous costs, such as ambulance, durable medical equipment, tertiary referrals, and home care) were assessed from claims filed for a year before and after enrollment. Control group patients experienced significant reductions in EW visits (39%), hospitalizations (43%), and outside-of-health-plan costs (28%), possibly as a result of the baseline educational intervention received by all enrolled patients, in conjunction with regression to the mean. AOP group patients experienced significant reductions in EW visits, (73%, P = .0002), hospitalizations (84%, P = .0012), and outside-of-health-plan use (82%, P < .0001). When compared with the control group, AOP group patients demonstrated additional significant reductions in EW visits (57%, P < .05), hospitalizations (75%, P < .05), and outside-of-health-plan use (71%, P < .001). Estimates of direct savings to the health plan ranged from $7.69 to $11.67 for every dollar spent on the AOP nurse’s salary, depending on assumptions.

Asthma patients in a staff-model health maintenance organization decreased their resource use between 57% to 75% by participation in an AOP as compared with a randomized control group receiving only an educational intervention. Substantial savings were achieved compared with the cost of the AOP nurse. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103:436-40.)

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