Asthma action plans are highly variable and do not conform to best visual design practices

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Apr;108(4):260-5.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2012.01.018. Epub 2012 Feb 23.


Background: Asthma action plans improve asthma outcomes and are recommended in guidelines. However, delivery by physicians and usage by patients remain low. This may be because of variability in existing plans and a failure to consider visual design and usability factors in plan development.

Objective: To characterize the variability in both the content and the format of existing plans, and the extent to which their format conforms to evidence-based visual design recommendations.

Methods: We collected plans from the internet, Canadian experts and associations, guidelines, and published trials. We inductively developed analytic criteria for format and content analyses.

Results: We collected 69 unique English or French-language adult outpatient plans from around the world. We found large variability in format, and plans fulfilled a mean of only 3.5 out of 8 evidence-based visual design recommendations. Content was also variable, including different descriptions of the baseline clinical state and descriptions and instructions at each "action point" (point recommending a change in treatment).

Conclusion: Existing plans vary widely in content and format. Accordingly, studies evaluating the effectiveness of action plans may not be directly comparable. Also, visual design may affect usability, uptake, and effectiveness. Our results suggest that this has not been adequately addressed in most plans, and design evidence and experts should be included in future development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Canada
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome