Objectives: The aims were to evaluate the profile of newly diagnosed adult asthma cases and the approach adopted to the secondary care management at the launch of the Finnish asthma programme in 1994 and seven years later, in 2001.
Methods: A retrospective medical record audit was made of non-acutely referred patients with asthma in 1994 (n=165) and in 2001 (n=133). Clinical profile data, numbers of out-patient visits and periods of in-patient care before and after asthma diagnosis were gathered from referral letters and secondary care records.
Results: The newly diagnosed asthma patients in 2001 were older, more obese and had more co-morbidities. The main asthma symptoms, such as dyspnoea, wheezing and cough, occurred equally in both years but were more often periodic than daily in 2001. Wheezing during auscultation was significantly less common in 2001. The diagnostic process was associated to a history of asthma in first-degree relatives (OR 5.34, 95% CI 1.12-24.49) in 1994 and a visit to a nurse prior to that to a physician (OR 3.13, 95% CI 1.17-8.37) in 2001. Secondary care visits per new case of asthma (7.3 in 1994 vs. 5.4 in 2001) and days in hospital (3.6 in 1994 vs. 0.95 in 2001) decreased significantly.
Conclusions: The profile of asthma diagnosed in secondary care indicates milder disease with more co-morbidities in 2001 than in 1994.Trends towards assigning a more active role on the part of primary care physicians and more rational use of secondary care resources in the management of asthma were found.
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