Objective: To test the ability of an automated telephone outreach intervention to reduce acute healthcare utilization and improve quality of life among adult asthma patients in a large managed care organization.
Study design: Randomized clinical trial.
Methods: Patients with persistent asthma were randomly assigned to telephone outreach (automated = 3389, live caller = 192) or usual care (n = 3367). Intervention participants received 3 outreach calls over a 10-month period. The intervention provided brief, supportive information and flagged individuals with poor asthma control for follow-up by a provider. A survey was mailed to 792 intervention participants and 236 providers after the intervention. Additional feedback was obtained as part of the final intervention contact.
Results: The intent-to-treat analysis found no significant differences between the intervention and usual-care groups for medication use, healthcare utilization, asthma control, or quality of life. Post hoc analyses found that, compared with the control group, individuals who actually participated in the intervention were significantly more likely to use inhaled steroids and to have had a routine medical visit for asthma during the follow-up period and less likely to use short-acting beta-agonists. They also reported higher satisfaction with their asthma care and better asthma-specific quality of life. Of surveyed providers, 59% stated the program helped them to clinically manage their asthma patients and 70% thought the program should be continued.
Conclusions: This study did not find improved health outcomes in the primary analyses. The intervention was well accepted by providers, however, and the individuals who participated in the calls appeared to have benefited from them. These findings suggest that further studies of automated telephone outreach interventions seem warranted.