New research shows that asthma patients who are under the care of an allergist report fewer asthma control problems and less severe asthma symptoms as compared to patients receiving care from primary care physicians.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects approximately 20 million Americans, and is responsible for nearly 5,000 deaths a year. In addition, there are nearly 2 million asthma-related visits to the emergency department each year.
Researchers surveyed a random sample of 3,568 patients with persistent asthma enrolled in an integrated health care system, to compare asthma care in patients seen by allergists vs. those seen by primary care providers. Of the patients who completed the assessment, 47.1% identified a primary care provider as their regular source of asthma care, 24.8% identified an allergist, 19.4% reported no regular source of asthma care, and 5.5% identified a pulmonologist.
Their research findings appear in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
It was found that patients under the care of an allergist were less likely to have required hospitalization or have unscheduled physician visits during the past year, compared to those seeing a primary care physician, and were also less likely to have overused Beta-agonists, a rescue medication, in the past year.
They also were more likely to receive inhaled steroids, the preferred medication for the prophylactic treatment of chronic, persistent asthma. Inhaled steroids are effective in reducing airway inflammation, hypersensitivity, swelling and mucous production.
According to Michael Schatz, Lead author of the study, from Kaiser-Permanente in San Diego, "These are important data that can be used by patients, payers, insurance companies and providers to improve outcomes for asthma patients. Patients with asthma should not have to miss school, work or recreational activities because of their symptoms.
Compared to asthma patients who received care from a primary care physician, those seeing an allergist reported fewer asthma control problems, less severe asthma symptoms, significantly higher scores for asthma-specific quality of life and for overall general health, and significantly better understanding of how to manage their asthma and greater overall satisfaction with care.
The authors conclude that patients under the care of an allergist have better quality of life, fewer hospitalizations, need less rescue medication and generally report higher satisfaction with their quality of care.