Asthma education and the patient-provider relationship

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William Osler Health Centre’s Asthma Education Clinic began with a primary focus on minimizing hospital length of stay for patients with asthma. This was accomplished by providing inpatient education, which included a review of discharge medications and disease processes. The clinic is offered at both the Etobicoke General and Brampton Civic hospital sites and provides inpatient and outpatient education to all patients, regardless of age. The Asthma Education Clinics provide parents and patients with information for prevention and management of asthma.

Patients and their families/caregivers interactively learn how to cope with and manage their asthma. They learn how to handle flare ups, identify potential triggers and early warning signs and control their environment, as well as collaboratively create an action plan that assists in daily asthma management. Patients are also counseled on smoking cessation as part of their environmental control discussions, and general information is available to family members who are interested in smoking cessation. The clinic staff work collaboratively with physicians, other health-care providers, patients, and family members to provide the best care possible.

Mr. Saggu is the father of Khushwant, an eight-year-old boy who visits the Asthma Education Clinic. Trips to the doctor’s office had been a very regular occurrence until the family was introduced to the asthma clinic. Up until then, the only way they knew to deal with symptoms was to increase the medicinal doses. At the clinic, they learned the concept of asthma management, active triggers, precautions, early intervention, and even how to use the medicines properly. This enabled them to alter Khushwant’s lifestyle and implement changes in his environment. Further, the one-to-one relationship with the asthma educator, regular check-ups, and appropriate adjustments to the asthma action plan have instilled confidence and provided a much needed assurance that they are on the right track.

When asked his thoughts, Mr. Saggu says: “Now, though we still need the doctor regularly, the element of panic or helplessness has been removed and the point at which the doctor’s intervention is really required is well established. Regular trips to monitor and manage asthma in this readily available Asthma Education Clinic have provided better care and reduced the trips to doctor’s office. Above all, it is a friendly and yet professional environment and I’m convinced that it has very definitely helped my family. I would say that the asthma condition for my son is under control. Short of a full cure, I think that this is the best we can achieve.”

The last two years have been spent trying to keep Khushwant well and avoiding emergency room/hospital admissions. He has only required one emergency room visit since starting at the Asthma Education Clinic. Triggers like allergies, colds/infections, weather change, etc. have, at times, made this a challenge. Thankfully, Mr. Saggu and his family have continued to participate in the clinic, and as such education sessions have been co-ordinated around physician visits to maximize the support and continuity of care within the health-care system.

Asthma Educators truly enjoy working with families like the Saggus. It allows us to educate and build relationships with our patients. We are given the opportunity to see our patients better manage their chronic disease, and we can assist them to better control their flare ups. We have the benefit of seeing our patients living a healthy life. For the patient, it also instills their trust in the health-care system and continuity of care with physicians and other health-care providers. Patients and their families achieve an increased awareness of their chronic disease and understand the importance of well established coping skills. As this level of knowledge is attained, we, as Asthma Educators, can truly be satisfied with a job well done.