By Steve Conti
In our asthma management work at the Seton Asthma Center, in Austin, Texas, we strive for three goals every day: to keep children from having to enter our hospital doors; to reduce the number of children readmitted to our facilities; and to keep children out of the emergency room (ER). These are the reasons that I work in asthma care and prevention, and why I am proud to tell our program’s story.
We started off almost 10 years ago with alarming numbers of ER visits and readmission rates for pediatric asthma patients in our community; so we began to question our methods: Where were our gaps? What could we enhance? And more importantly, how could we better serve our community? In short, we wanted to understand how to better provide comprehensive asthma management to the children we treated to improve their quality of life.
We took this opportunity to evaluate our programmatic goals and activities to determine how we could achieve the results that would align with our goals of improving asthma health outcomes. After implementing new strategies, including how we conducted asthma education outreach to families, we started to see fewer children returning to the ER. However, in order to determine if we achieved success, we really needed to measure our results. To do so, we tracked patients’ doctor and ER visits for one year, as well as had patients’ complete quality of life assessments. Coupling this information with their previous year’s medical history allowed us to do a comparative evaluation of each child’s condition.
The results were amazing. We saw an almost 50 percent decline in ER visits, a 90 percent decrease in patient visits and a positive return on investment – for every dollar we spent on program expenses, we were able to demonstrate a $5 return.
It is because of our evaluation efforts that I am able to articulate Seton’s story and describe the positive impact our program has had on managing asthma in our community. I would highly encourage any asthma management program that is interested in learning more about evaluation and how to articulate their program’s story to attend the upcoming EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum, June 9-10, 2011, in Washington, D.C. It’s an inspiring event that helps programs promote healthier, happier lives for their patients, and provides an opportunity to meet national experts in asthma care.
About the author: Steve Conti has been with the Seton Family of Hospitals for 15 years and currently serves as the Director of Disease Management. Seton Asthma Center is the recipient of the 2009 EPA National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.
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