Conference Coverage

Patient and family education of asthma management is critical



Regular education of patients with asthma and their loved ones about how to manage the disease is critical to successful treatment, according to a speaker at the Cardiovascular & Respiratory Summit by Global Academy for Medical Education.

Mary Lou Hayden RN, MS, FNP-BC, AE-C

Mary Lou Hayden

“Every contact with them is a teachable moment,” Mary Lou Hayden, RN, MS, FNP-BC, AE-C, a board-certified nurse practitioner and asthma educator, said in her presentation. “You want to make sure you’re involving the important people in their lives to help them.”

Education for asthma includes teaching patients and their families the difference between long-term control and reliever medications; the proper timing and technique with the medications, as well as the importance of adherence; how to recognize and avoid triggers for asthma; how to self-monitor their asthma and control the disease; and when to seek medication care, she said.

“We review their inhaler technique every time they come in,” she added.

According to the American Lung Association, patients learn in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic styles. Teaching patients in a kinesthetic style by actually showing the patient how to take the medication through example will help the patient learn through feeling, or muscle memory. This also method works even if patients do not have the medication with them at the time, said Ms. Hayden.

“Let’s say, you don’t have [the medication], but you prescribe it,” she said. “When they come back, tell them to bring their bag of medications and make sure you go back through because if they can kinesthetically use it correctly, they’ve already mastered the visual and the auditory piece.

Written action plans are also important to successful asthma management. The plan should be tailored to the patient’s disease severity, loss of control, and include information like the peak expiratory flow and medication types, dosages, and frequencies. The action plan should also be available at home, daycare, and school. “You want them to know how to recognize their symptoms, what to do about their symptoms, and when to contact you or go to urgent care or [the emergency room],” said Ms. Hayden.

To simplify the plan, Ms. Hayden recommended zoning actions based on color, like the asthma action plan provided by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The AAAAI plan uses traffic colors to signify how well controlled a patient’s asthma is, with green indicating well-controlled disease, yellow denoting worsening asthma, and red indicating that the asthma needs to be treated right away.

Action plans should also address a patient’s health literacy level and culture. “Think about who’s going to be using it,” said Ms. Hayden.

The goal of asthma therapy is to prevent chronic or problematic symptoms, lower use of short-acting beta-agonists, maintain good pulmonary function, normalize activity levels at school and work, prevent exacerbations and hospitalizations, and meet the patient’s expectations, as well as those of their family. “If you’re thinking only severe patients have exacerbations that are near fatal or fatal, that’s not true,” she said. It’s “very common for somebody with a very mild and intermittent asthma to go to severe in a very short period of time.”

When properly implemented, patient education is performed at the time of diagnosis, is done according to a plan, is integrated into care, reinforces important information, improves adherence, is individualized to the patient and addresses their needs, and builds a partnership between provider and patient.

“We really are thinking of the team concept: us, the patient and the important people the patient’s lives, and other clinicians that might be involved with other diseases to care for the patient,” said Ms. Hayden.

Ms. Hayden reports no relevant conflicts of interest. Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.

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