Asthma continues to be a major health concern internationally despite improvements in treatment and the introduction of international asthma guidelines. Asthma education and action plans are essential to enhancing asthma knowledge, adherance, quality of life, and control of asthma and these form the basis for all treatment strategies recommended. There are over 90 Internet websites that provide asthma education. These sites did not provide interactive asthma management and the majority did not even meet acceptable educational standards. This study aimed to assess the impact of providing asthma management by a Certified Asthma Educator (CAE) to patients with asthma via the Internet.
The Virtual Asthma Clinic (VAC) was created to allow a CAE to communicate with patients, and assist patients with asthma management. Patients initially had spirometry testing, an asthma education session, and completed Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ), symptoms questionnaire and SF-36. The site provided access to their personalized action plan, and asthma information. Data was compared between those who actively participated in the program and those who dropped-out.
A total of 16 physicians referred 63 patients to the clinic. The active participants have taken part for a mean of 107.4 days (ongoing), while the dropouts participated for a mean of 140.6 days. The dropouts were younger (p<0.01) and both groups were predominantly female (60.5% active participants, 75.0% dropouts, NS). There were no differences in history of smoking. Participants had a mean of 41.4 hits to the website, compared to 14.8 for the dropouts (p<0.01). Participants were more likely to email the nurse (p<0.01), enter peak flow data (p<0.01), complete the weekly survey (p<0.05), the AQLQ (p<0.01), the SF-36 (p<0.01).
Active participants in the VAC were older and while they were enrolled for fewer days, participated more actively.
It is feasible to provide asthma management to patients online. Through this study we are able to identify a specific demographic of older patients who appear to participate more readily in the program than young adults.
Irvin Mayers, Grant monies (from sources other than industry) Capital Health Regional Telehealth, Alberta Health & Wellness; and The Alberta Strategy to Help Manage Asthma; Grant monies (from industry related sources) AstraZeneca Canada Inc.