Chronic disease management for asthma

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) airway (breathing) disease affecting about 300 million people worldwide. People with asthma have many symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. The aim of a chronic disease management programme for asthma is to improve the quality and effectiveness of asthma care by creating a programme that is centred on patient's needs, encourages the co-ordination of the health services provided by healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses, who should work together, and focuses on helping the patients to manage their illness themselves as well as providing them with information to help them understand their illness.

This review found 20 studies that compared the effects of chronic disease management programmes in adults with asthma with the effects of usual care. The average age of the patients was 42.5 years, 60% were women, and they had moderate to severe asthma. Overall the evidence that was found was of moderate to low quality.

Chronic disease management programmes for adults with asthma probably improve patients' quality of life, reduce the severity of the asthma, and improve breathing as demonstrated by improved performance in lung function tests after 12 months. It is unclear whether chronic disease management programmes improve the patients' abilities to manage their own asthma or decrease the number of hospitalisations or emergency visits.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is moderate to low quality evidence that chronic disease management programmes for adults with asthma can improve asthma-specific quality of life, asthma severity, and lung function tests. Overall, these results provide encouraging evidence of the potential effectiveness of these programmes in adults with asthma when compared with usual care. However, the optimal composition of asthma chronic disease management programmes and their added value, compared with education or self-management alone that is usually offered to patients with asthma, need further investigation.

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Background: 

The burden of asthma on patients and healthcare systems is substantial. Interventions have been developed to overcome difficulties in asthma management. These include chronic disease management programmes, which are more than simple patient education, encompassing a set of coherent interventions that centre on the patients' needs, encouraging the co-ordination and integration of health services provided by a variety of healthcare professionals, and emphasising patient self-management as well as patient education.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the effectiveness of chronic disease management programmes for adults with asthma.

Search strategy: 

Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE (MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations), EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO were searched up to June 2014. We also handsearched selected journals from 2000 to 2012 and scanned reference lists of relevant reviews.

Selection criteria: 

We included individual or cluster-randomised controlled trials, non-randomised controlled trials, and controlled before-after studies comparing chronic disease management programmes with usual care in adults over 16 years of age with a diagnosis of asthma. The chronic disease management programmes had to satisfy at least the following five criteria: an organisational component targeting patients; an organisational component targeting healthcare professionals or the healthcare system, or both; patient education or self-management support, or both; active involvement of two or more healthcare professionals in patient care; a minimum duration of three months.

Data collection and analysis: 

After an initial screen of the titles, two review authors working independently assessed the studies for eligibility and study quality; they also extracted the data. We contacted authors to obtain missing information and additional data, where necessary. We pooled results using the random-effects model and reported the pooled mean or standardised mean differences (SMDs).

Main results: 

A total of 20 studies including 81,746 patients (median 129.5) were included in this review, with a follow-up ranging from 3 to more than 12 months. Patients' mean age was 42.5 years, 60% were female, and their asthma was mostly rated as moderate to severe. Overall the studies were of moderate to low methodological quality, because of limitations in their design and the wide confidence intervals for certain results.

Compared with usual care, chronic disease management programmes resulted in improvements in asthma-specific quality of life (SMD 0.22, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.08 to 0.37), asthma severity scores (SMD 0.18, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.30), and lung function tests (SMD 0.19, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.30). The data for improvement in self-efficacy scores were inconclusive (SMD 0.51, 95% CI -0.08 to 1.11). Results on hospitalisations and emergency department or unscheduled visits could not be combined in a meta-analysis because the data were too heterogeneous; results from the individual studies were inconclusive overall. Only a few studies reported results on asthma exacerbations, days off work or school, use of an action plan, and patient satisfaction. Meta-analyses could not be performed for these outcomes.

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