Innovative Way of Treating Asthma Also Proves Effective for Other Illnesses

Innovative Way of Treating Asthma Also Proves Effective for Other Illnesses

Treating chronic illness can be a challenge. It requires regular medical care, education and medication. It also requires one thing that is almost always in short supply in health care: Time.

As a company which covers members in multiple states, we have the unique ability to use lessons we’ve learned from partnerships in one state to benefit our members in all locations. When we wanted to improve care for children with asthma, one approach was to give a face-lift to the way clinics treat asthma patients. It is part of an innovative project called Enhancing Care for Children with asthma that partners with the American Lung Association of New Mexico. The project has generated some dramatic results. In the first two years, results from 12 New Mexico clinics show that the number of asthma-related visits to emergency departments as well as the number of hospital stays for their young patients with asthma are down a whopping 80 percent.

Officials at the Rio Rancho Clinic outside Albuquerque say the improved results at their clinic are due to a systematic approach to treating children with asthma. The approach has been so successful in treating asthma that the clinic has adapted it for use in treating other chronic illnesses, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorderleaving site icon It’s also using the project’s methods for well-child visits, treating depression and following up on patients with concussions.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to standardize care across all providers,” says Dr. Kristina Gutierrez-Barela of the Rio Rancho Clinic.

It works like this:

  1. The clinic staff member who makes the appointment asks the reason for the visit. If it is asthma-related, the appointment is booked for 30 minutes, not the standard 15.
  2. The desk clerk who checks in the patient knows to send the child first to the nurse who administers the breathing test.
  3. The nurse administers the breathing test and gives the results to the doctor.
  4. The doctor sees the patient.
  5. A nurse follows up with education about asthma.

The future of health care is about creating solutions to problems. By creating partnerships with other innovators in the communities we serve, we can make progress in improving the health of everyone.

It’s all in the approach

In clinics like Rio Rancho, staff turnover can be high and patients often walk in without appointments. The clinic was good at treating asthma crises, but there never seemed to be enough time to teach the children and their caregivers how to manage the illness on a day-to-day basis so they could avoid those crises.

That changed when the clinic started working with the American Lung Association leaving site icon as part of the Enhancing Care for Children with asthma project.. The Association showed the clinic how to come up with a standard method for treating asthma patients.

“The clinic realized it can’t do everything in a 15-minute visit with the doctor,” says Kathy Moseley of the American Lung Association of New Mexico.

Instead, patients with asthma get a 30-minute visit that involves the entire staff. That ensures patients get the pre-appointment prep, education, and follow-up they need to more effectively manage their asthma.

To learn more about Asthma and our Taking on Asthma initiative, check out some more great content .

Originally published on 8/30/2016; Revised 2019