Background: In asthma, socio-economic and health care factors may operate by a number of mechanisms to influence asthma morbidity and mortality.
Aim: To determine the quality of medical care including the patient perception of the doctor-patient relationship, and the level of socio-economic disadvantage in patients admitted to hospital with acute severe asthma.
Methods: One hundred and thirty-eight patients (15-50 years) admitted to hospital (general ward or intensive care unit) with acute asthma were prospectively assessed using a number of previously validated instruments.
Results: The initial subjects had severe asthma on admission (pH = 7.3 +/- 0.2, PaCO2 = 7.1 +/- 5.0 kPa, n = 90) but short hospital stay (3.7 +/- 2.6 days). Although having high morbidity (40% had hospital admission in the last year and 60% had moderate/severe interference with sleep and/or ability to exercise), they had indicators of good ongoing medical care (96% had a regular GP, 80% were prescribed inhaled steroids, 84% had a peak flow meter, GP measured peak flow routinely in 80%, 52% had a written crisis plan and 44% had a supply of steroids at home). However, they were severely economically disadvantaged (53% had experienced financial difficulties in the last year, and for 35% of households the only income was a social security benefit). In the last year 39% had delayed or put off GP visit because of cost. Management of the index attack was compromised by concern about medical costs in 16% and time off work in 20%.
Conclusion: Patients admitted to hospital with acute asthma have evidence of good quality on-going medical care, but are economically disadvantaged. If issues such as financial barriers to health care are not acknowledged and addressed, the health care services for asthmatics will not be effectively utilised and the current reductions in morbidity and mortality may not be maintained.