SOURCE: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

March 20, 2007 06:20 ET

Asthma Control: A Potential Communication Gap Between Doctors and Their Patients

Asthma Foundation Launches 'Get A.H.E.A.D. of Asthma' Initiative in Response

WASHINGTON, DC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 20, 2007 -- The results of a new national survey, released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), unveils that adult asthma patients and their primary care physicians (PCPs) may not always speak the same language when it comes to discussing asthma control. This communication gap could potentially lead to less than optimal disease management. Today, AAFA launches the 'Get A.H.E.A.D. of Asthma' initiative to provide patients with a roadmap for a more effective conversation with their doctors.

Patients and PCPs Are Not Always Speaking the Same Language

AAFA's national survey, conducted by Harris Interactive®, revealed many asthma patients and PCPs both agree that the most important factors that describe asthma control include having few to no asthma symptoms, being able to continue with activities of daily life, not having to use fast-acting inhalers frequently and reducing the severity of asthma symptoms. However, it seems that this is where the connection between patients and PCPs ends when it comes to discussing asthma control.

66% of surveyed PCPs feel that their definition of asthma control differs from that of their patients, while 25% of patients, who see a health care provider for their asthma, say they and their physicians have a different definition. While the majority of PCPs (80%) say that they discuss asthma control with their patients on a regular basis, asthma patients, who see a health care provider for their asthma, report that the meaning of asthma control is discussed during a typical asthma visit 11% of the time -- which is surprisingly low. The survey results suggest that while patients and physicians are having the same conversation, they just do not perceive the same things all the time.

"Doctors tend to review quantitative, clinical factors during a typical office visit, which may not be perceived by patients as dimensions of asthma control," said Mike Tringale, Director of External Affairs for the AAFA. "Patients, instead, tend to place a heavier emphasis on the 'qualitative' dimension of the disease and how it impacts their quality of life. Asthma control is very 'real' to patients. It is whether or not they feel they are breathing freely, whether or not they can go to work today or play sports, or go out with friends. Perhaps, that explains the disconnect revealed in our survey between patients and physicians when discussing asthma control."

'Get A.H.E.A.D. of Asthma' Campaign Launched

In response, AAFA is launching an educational campaign: 'Get A.H.E.A.D. of Asthma', to provide patients with the tools to better communicate with their physicians about asthma control. As part of this initiative, a website has also been launched today. The website provides a downloadable brochure, including a "roadmap" for an effective conversation between patients and physicians.

Bridging the communication gap on asthma control is very important for millions of asthma patients. More than 20 million Americans have asthma, making it one of the leading public health problems in the U.S. Asthma is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths, nearly 500,000 hospitalizations, 2 million emergency room visits, more than 14 million missed school days, and nearly 15 million missed work days each year.

Fully understanding the meaning of asthma control can empower patients to better manage their asthma. Patients should understand what key information to track so that they come prepared to the physician's office to help the physician assess their disease. When surveyed, 40% of asthma patients report that they wish they had a better understanding of what their expectations should be for controlling their asthma.

"Helping patients to volunteer the right information to their physicians can truly make a difference in their disease management. If our patients gain better understanding of the key factors they must watch for and share with us, it can help physicians in determining the best management options," said Dr. Allan Luskin, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, and Director of the Center for Respiratory Health, at the Dean Medical Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

Asthma is a disease that can be very different for each patient and it may require both lifestyle adjustments and medication to control the disease. Therefore patients should discuss both the qualitative and quantitative impact that their asthma has on their everyday life. Symptoms, fast-acting inhaler use, quality of life, and response to treatment are all dimensions of asthma control that should be addressed during an effective conversation between patients and physicians.

For more information about how to get ahead of asthma, please visit or call AAFA Hotline at 1.800.7.ASTHMA.

This program was made possible with support from Merck & Co., Inc.

About the Survey Methodology

AAFA commissioned two surveys conducted online by Harris Interactive. The surveys were designed to interview adult patients of asthma, mothers of children with asthma, primary care physicians and pediatricians. Questions asked about asthma control as well as overall asthma symptoms, impact of asthma on everyday life and treatments.

The first survey interviewed a total of 354 physicians, who saw at least seven patients diagnosed with asthma weekly, had been in practice for two or more years since residency, and had a practice that was mostly office- or clinic-based, and included 254 primary care physicians and 100 pediatricians. Interviews were conducted from December 5, 2006 to December 18, 2006. Figures for sex, years in practice and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their respective total populations.

The second survey interviewed a total of 585 asthma patients, ages 22-59, who took a prescription medication to treat their asthma and 274 adult mothers who had at least one child under age 18 with asthma. Interviews were conducted from December 5, 2006 to January 3, 2007. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their respective total populations. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 254 primary care physicians and 585 asthma patients, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall primary care physician results have a sampling error of +/- 7 percentage points and the overall asthma patient results have a sampling error of +/- 6 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples may be higher and may vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. The online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies. AAFA provides practical information, community based services and support through a national network of chapters and groups. AAFA develops health education, organizes state and national advocacy efforts and funds research to find better treatments and cures. For more than 50 years, AAFA has been a leader in fiscal responsibility and charity management. AAFA is a member of the most respected nonprofit industry groups and subscribes to the highest ethical standards.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Mike Tringale
    Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
    202-466-7643/ Ext 272