Study objective: To determine whether a self-management training program decreases emergency department visits and reduces costs for patients with asthma.
Design: Randomized controlled trial of an educational program.
Setting: Two sites--an urban emergency room and a suburban emergency room.
Patients: 241 asthma patients between the ages of 18 and 70 years. Of the 119 patients in the intervention group and the 122 in the control group, 185 (76%) were available for follow-up.
Intervention: All patients seen in the emergency departments were given usual medical care and follow-up. Patients in the intervention group were asked to attend three educational sessions on asthma conducted by a specially trained RN. The program stressed importance of medication compliance, methods to control and prevent attacks, effects of drugs and rationale for their use, relaxation exercises, and smoking cessation.
Measurement and main results: All patients received telephone interviews four, eight, and 12 months after entry into the study. Reports based on hospital admissions and emergency room utilization were verified by billing records. Three patients died during the study, none from asthma-related problems. The intervention group had significantly fewer asthma-related emergency visits (16 visits per 100 persons) than did the control group (39 per 100 persons); p = 0.0005 for the 12 months of follow-up. The effect of the intervention on asthma-related emergency department visits was strongest during the initial four months postintervention (68 per 100 persons versus 220 per 100 persons, p = 0.003). The financial analysis showed that the $85/person cost for the educational sessions was offset by the $628/person reduction in emergency room charges.
Conclusion: Education enables patients with asthma to decrease utilization of emergency services.