A free Internet-based tool allows asthmatics to assess the degree of control of they have over their asthma and obtain reliable recommendations for treatment, according to research presented Monday in Munich, Germany at the European Respiratory Society’s annual gathering.
“Self-assessment and self-management are the goal of long-term asthma care, Dr. Min-Li Chang and colleagues at Taipei’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital explain in a summary of their presentation.
They developed an Internet-based asthma consultation system, with the goal of replacing the face-to-face contact with healthcare providers. It uses software that assesses asthma symptoms, severity and medication use and suggests possible precipitating factors by calculating average lung function and changes in lung function using peak expiratory flow data. The system can also generate recommendations based on international guidelines.
Chang and colleagues validated the system in a study of 134 asthmatics who used the system to self-assess their asthma control one week before being seen by an asthma specialist.
Results showed no difference in asthma severity as judged by the Internet program and asthma specialists. There was a high degree of agreement between the self-assessment tool and the opinion of four asthma specialists consulted in parallel.
The causes of asthma flare-ups identified by asthma specialists were consistent with those identified by the Internet consultation system, with the exception of one case.
In terms of management recommendations, agreement between asthma specialists and the online program was “excellent,” the team reports. Asthma specialists disagreed with management recommendations provided by the online program in only 11 patients (8.2 percent).
According to Ming and colleagues, 69 percent of patients were able to improve their asthma control by following the computerized recommendations after one month of monitoring. Only two patients (1.7 percent) whose asthma was initially rated as “well-controlled” deteriorated after one month of follow-up.
The researchers conclude, based on the study, that the Internet-based asthma consultation system - available free at http://www.medicalgrid.org/eng/ - is accurate and reliable for both patients and physicians.
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD