Background: Despite significant improvements in asthma treatment and the dissemination of national and international guidelines for asthma management, there are ongoing concerns that suboptimal care is being provided for patients with asthma.
Objective: To determine the current practice patterns of asthma care among primary care physicians.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Setting: Province of Alberta, Canada (population: 3 million people).
Participants: Patients, 5 years of age or older, who had a physician's diagnosis of asthma, and had at least two visits for asthma between 1996 and 2001.
Measurement and results: Charts of 3072 distinct patients (from 45 unique primary care physicians) were reviewed. Previous emergency department visits or hospitalizations were experienced by 20% of the sample. A total of 25% of patients had documented evidence that they had performed spirometry. More than half of the patients had no documented evidence that they had received any form of asthma education; only 2% of the charts indicated that patients received a written action plan. Two thirds of the patients were prescribed an inhaled steroid within 6 months of the last clinic visit.
Conclusions: Our study indicates a gap in the provision of asthma education, written action plans, and spirometric testing for patients diagnosed with asthma among primary care physicians.