Aim: To identify from the literature what terms are used for 'asthma plans', with what meaning, and in what context(s).
Methods: Linguistic analysis of a selected body of asthma literature from 1989-2009.
Results: A wide range of asthma plan terminology was evident, with terms such as 'action plans', 'self-management plans' and 'treatment plans' being applied inconsistently and synonymously. For individual patients the term 'asthma plan' can describe a clinically-determined list of prescribed medication, an agreed plan to guide self-management of changing symptoms, or a more holistic 'living with asthma' plan. In some contexts the term 'asthma plan' was also used to describe an organisational system of care, which causes further ambiguity.
Conclusions: Within the literature, a plethora of terms is used inconsistently and with varied meaning. This is a potential, but previously unrecognised, barrier to asthma plan implementation. A taxonomy of asthma plans and a standardised definitions of terms is required.