PURPOSE: Effective communication between patients and their physicians can only occur when the vocabulary used carries the same meaning to both parties. Terms commonly found in the medical literature may not be used colloquially by patients. The Asthma Insight and Management (AIM) survey, a large and comprehensive asthma survey in the US, explored differences in the understanding of terminology used to describe asthma symptom worsening.
METHODS: 2500 asthma patients (aged ≥12 y), 101 family practitioners (FPs), 104 allergists, 54 pulmonologists, and 50 internists were surveyed via random telephone calls. The sample size was determined to provide an accurate national representation of the opinions/views of asthma patients and their caregivers.
RESULTS: Most FPs (69%), allergists (76%), pulmonologists (93%), and internists (78%) reported using the term “asthma exacerbation” when discussing asthma symptom worsening with patients. Only 24% of asthma patients were familiar with the term “asthma exacerbation”. Almost all asthma patients (97%) were familiar with the term “asthma attack”, which most internists (74%), FPs (71%), and smaller proportions of allergists (58%) and pulmonologists (57%), said they use to describe worsening asthma when talking with patients. The term “asthma flare-ups” was recognized by 71% of asthma patients, 73% of FPs, 78% of allergists, 57% of pulmonologists, and 62% of internists. The term “asthma flare-ups” was associated with less variation in perceptions across groups.
CONCLUSION: Although differences may exist in what patients consider asthma flare-ups and asthma attacks, the term most commonly used by physicians (asthma exacerbations) is not sufficiently familiar to asthma patients to be useful in communications with them.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: A commonly understood terminology is needed for physicians to effectively explain the meaning of asthma exacerbations and help their patients understand what can be done to prevent them.
DISCLOSURE: Robert Nathan, Grant monies (from industry related sources) Dr. Nathan has received grants and research support from Abbott, Alcon, AstraZeneca, Ception, Dey, Dyax, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, MAP, MedImmune, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering-Plough, and TEVA.Dr. Murphy receives research support from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, and Schering-Plough, and received honoraria for consulting services from AstraZeneca, Dey, Merck, and Schering-Plough. This work was supported by Schering Corp., a Division of Merck & Co.Dr. Meltzer received research/grant support and served as a consultant and on speaker bureau for Schering-Plough.; Consultant fee, speaker bureau, advisory committee, etc. Dr. Nathan has served as consultant or scientific advisor for Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Schering-Plough, and TEVA. He has also participated in Speaker’s Bureaus for AstraZeneca, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering-Plough and UCB. Dr. Stoloff has served as a consultant and receives research support from Merck Schering-Plough. Dr. Blaiss is a consultant for Merck Schering-Plough.; No Product/Research Disclosure Information