The Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital

The Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s CHAMP Program (Changing High-Risk Asthma in Memphis through Partnership) is a collaborative that serves children ages 2–18 in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, who are identified as having high-risk asthma. Of CHAMP’s patients, 95 percent are African American children who suffer from poorly controlled asthma that results in preventable hospital and emergency department (ED) encounters, missed school days, and diminished quality of life.


Asthma affects up to 13.5 percent of children in Memphis, and it is the cause of 40 percent of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital admissions. According to the 2010 Tennessee Discharge Data Set, almost 4,000 children were seen in emergency rooms in Shelby County for asthma-related problems. More than 600 of these children had multiple ED visits or hospitalizations, and nearly 200 required intensive care unit admissions. Pediatric asthma hospitalizations cost the Tennessee Medicaid system (TennCare) $2.1 million in avoidable hospitalizations, and an additional $2.6 million for ED visits.


The CHAMP Program—which is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)*—serves a subset of these patients, focusing on children who are most at risk for multiple or severe asthma exacerbations that would result in unplanned medical encounters, particularly those that take place in the ED or in the hospital (admission or observation). Although CHAMP patients have all been assigned a primary care physician (PCP), many lack a connection with their PCP, or do not consult the PCP for asthma episodes. They primarily live in rental properties characterized by environmental hazards—such as mold, mildew and cockroaches—that exacerbate asthma episodes, and many of them move frequently or spend significant periods of time in more than one residence over the course of a week or month.


CHAMP’s theory of change relies on an understanding that asthma care typically is not well managed as a result of several factors: the delivery system is fragmented; providers are unable to share information; and efforts to provide ongoing education, environmental improvements and social supports that will encourage self-management are unfocused. Building on that understanding, CHAMP created an Asthma Registry that includes medical encounter data from TennCare and medical data from electronic medical records. The CHAMP team comprises sub-specialist medical providers with significant experience in using the National Institute of Health’s guidelines for asthma diagnosis and management. CHAMP’s community-based staff members work to educate families and address barriers to self-management. Environmental concerns for at-risk patients are addressed through partnerships with families, schools, PCPs and programs/services. In addition a 24/7 call line is staffed by emergency medical technicians and registered nurses.

CHAMP’s various program components work in an integrated fashion to achieve its ambitious goals. CHAMP seeks to reduce asthma deaths among its target population to zero by June 15, 2015. In addition, the program aims to cut ED visits, avoidable hospitalizations and urgent care visits by 15 percent by June 30, 2015. By that same date, CHAMP also seeks to improve the quality of life for 80 percent of the patients, achieve an overall positive patient/family rating of the CHAMP program from at least 95 percent of the patients/families surveyed, and lower overall health care costs for children served by more than $4 million.


A distinguishing CHAMP feature is its Web-based asthma registry for high-risk patients, developed with the technological expertise of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Division of Biomedical Informatics. The registry is a means of compiling and storing key pieces of information that pertain to the 55 data elements forming the core of the CHAMP quality metrics. The registry’s unique feature is that the TennCare administration allows the program to download an updated listing of all CHAMP patient encounters each month, including cost data. When CHAMP patients sign the institutional review board informed consent form, they allow the program to receive 1.5 years of TennCare medical-encounter data prior to enrollment and monthly updates every month after enrollment. This information furnishes an opportunity to use the registry as a case management tool, complete with warnings and automatic notifications that prompt CHAMP to contact families and provide help when, for example, prescriptions are not filled.


The most current data—covering the quarter ending December 31, 2014—show that the program’s 464 enrollees have seen significant gains in their asthma management. There was a 30-percent reduction (from baseline utilization) in the percentage of children who experienced at least one ED or urgent care visit per quarter. There was a 42-percent reduction in the percentage of children who have had at least one ED or urgent care visit for asthma in a 6-month period, and there was a 40-percent reduction in the percentage of children hospitalized each quarter for asthma-related diagnoses. With regard to possible reductions in cost of care, at the close of the 10th quarter, the average cost of care for each CHAMP patient per year was 52 percent less than it had been 1 year prior to CHAMP enrollment.  


Among CHAMP’s many accomplishments to date, the CHAMP Medical Director and Asthma Care Coordinators provided basic asthma education courses for all school nurses in the Shelby County system over a 2-year period (in 2013 and 2014). As for the environmental conditions of children with asthma and their families, CHAMP employs individual family interventions and collaboration with community partners to improve completing renovations and addressing concerns with laws, codes and community policies. Although still being refined, CHAMP shows great promise for meeting and exceeding the stated goals of its CMS-funded collaborative agreement.


*CHAMP is supported by Grant number 1C1CMS331046-01-00 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The contents of this document are solely the responsibility of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Division of Community Health and Well Being and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies.

1st row – Christina Watkins-Bolden, Alexandria Bagley, Teresa Hughes, Dr. Christie Michael, Susan Steppe, Stephanie Watson, Linda Mallory, and Mark Sakauye
2nd Row – Regina Perry, Yvonne Elliott, Dr. Dennis Stokes, Raisha Montgomery, Karen Nellis, and Kelli Holloway
3rd Row - Dr. Christina Underhill, Beverly Brown, Tabatha Johnson, and Emin Kuscu

Award Year: 
Award Winner Category: