July 20, 2008

Better Understanding of Treatments Seen As Central to Asthma Care

By Annie Getsinger, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Jul. 20--DECATUR -- Intent on gaining a better understanding of asthma management, participants at the Techniques and Tools of the Trade workshop visited stations where experts instructed them on medication devices and assessment tools such as metered dose inhalers, nebulizer treatments, dry powder medications and peak flow meters.

More than 40 health care providers from the central region of the Illinois Asthma Partnership gathered in the Decatur Memorial Hospital classrooms Thursday to learn how to help their patients with asthma better manage the disease.

Andrea Evans, a nurse practitioner at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, led the steering committee that put together the event and a similar one set to take place in Springfield. She and her twin sons have asthma.

Denise Tex, a respiratory therapist at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, said she came to the seminar hoping to keep current on new techniques and treatments for asthma regulation.

"It's critical that providers, whether they be nurses or physicians or nurse practitioners, pharmacists, whomever, to correctly know how to use these devices so that they can share that information correctly with the patients," Evans said. "That increases adherence, reduces hospitalization rates, reduces missed school days, missed work days and overall, the key, increases quality of life for people with asthma."

Both children and adults are liable to misuse the devices used to treat their asthma if they and providers assume they already know how, she said.

Evans said the best way for providers to ensure that patients are using the gadgets correctly is to have them bring in all their medications and demonstrate the way they are using them at home.

"It's a short little program," she said. "It's not rocket science, but it's tweaking what we already know and making sure that it's done appropriately."

Dr. Beth Gibson, a Decatur allergist and immunologist, spoke about the responsibilities of providers to help their patients understand asthma.

"It's very important when a patient gets a diagnosis of asthma that they be educated on what asthma is and what the medicines are for and what you take every day and what you take just as needed," Gibson said. "Because a lot of times that gets flipped where they're using their rescue puffers all the time, but their controller medicine is in a drawer somewhere and hasn't been used in months."

Something as simple as the way a patient is holding an inhaler or whether they use a spacer can make a difference in the medicine's effectiveness and in that patient's quality of life, the organizers said.

"Everybody's individual," Evans said. "The medications that I take for my asthma are not the medications that someone else takes for their asthma. Everybody's different. It's an art; it goes beyond medicine."

Annie Getsinger can be reached at [email protected] or 421-6968.


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