Objectives: To test the hypothesis that reinforcement of the advice given at the time of discharge from the emergency department by telephone consultation would improve asthma outcomes.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial of the parents of 310 children who had been discharged from the emergency department with asthma was undertaken. The parents were randomized to receive either standard care (155 children) or standard care plus education by telephone (155 children) from a trained asthma educator. Symptoms, parental asthma knowledge, parental quality of life and use of asthma action plans and preventer therapy were collected at baseline and 6 months later. The primary measure was days of wheeze in last 3 months; intermediate measures were regular use of preventer medications, possession and use of written asthma action plan, parental asthma knowledge scores and parental quality of life scores.
Results: A total of 266 parents (136 intervention) completed the follow-up questionnaires after 6 months. Both groups showed similar symptoms and process measures at baseline, apart from more regular use of preventer medication in the control children. At follow up, the intervention group children were significantly more likely than controls to possess (87.5% vs 72.3%; P = 0.002) a written asthma action plan. Possession of action plans increased from baseline in the intervention group but tended to decrease in the control group. Use of action plans was greater in the intervention group but decreased from baseline in both groups. Both intervention and control groups showed significant decreases in asthma symptoms.
Conclusions: Reinforcement by telephone consultation did not improve the primary outcome of wheeze in the last 3 months. However, it increased the possession and regular use of written asthma action plans in the intervention group.