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To determine the most pressing health issues in our communities, we look at our claims data to find patterns of high spending for common diseases. Childhood asthma is one area of opportunity where we can make a big difference.
So we reached out to the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest to talk about what we could do together. Together in 2012, we launched the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project, an effort to help improve asthma care for high-risk children.
To get started, we used our claims data to identify the areas with the greatest need. Using this information, we identified the health care providers that are serving large groups of high-risk patients with asthma. We're able to provide training and resources to the health care providers who need it most.
We were able to find and recruit Illinois clinics to join the project, including primary care clinics and federally qualified health centers. The project uses a training program based on the National Asthma Education Prevention Program, which was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Clinic staff members are trained in all aspects of asthma management, from proper diagnosis using spirometry (to measure air going into and out of the lungs) to daily asthma management. The clinics were also given educational materials for young patients and their caregivers to improve understanding of what asthma is, explain how to avoid triggers, and show them how to take medication properly.
Our efforts are paying off. We can now go back to our data and track outcomes for kids from these clinics to see if we’re making a difference. After two years, hospital stays are down 60 percent and emergency room visits are down 53 percent for members who benefited from this project.
Something that can’t be measured but matters just the same: parents say there are fewer missed school days, and their kids are performing better in school. Kids feel better because they are on the right medicine.
Originally a three-year program, we are extending it based on these successes. Further, we are expanding the training program to 10 more Illinois clinics. We will also add an “in-home evaluation” component where the American Lung Association of IL will offer for an asthma educator to visit the homes of children who still have poorly controlled asthma. This helps identify allergens and irritants that may trigger asthma in their homes.
Originally published 7/1/2016; Revised 2019
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