Staffed by pulmonologists, allergists, public health staff, and an extensive translation services program—with over 30 languages spoken—Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) provides excellent clinical and environmental care and promotes improved asthma self-management for the city’s underserved populations. The program educates patients about asthma management and environmental triggers, facilitates access to needed services (medical legal partnership, housing, and insurance), and promotes strong provider-patient relationships that contribute to improved patient outcomes. BMC’s environmental focus includes partnerships with several Boston agencies to launch the Breathe Easy at Home Program, a Web-facilitated program that gives health professionals a way to report potential housing code violations that may worsen patient asthma, and the Boston Inspectional Services Department responds to reports by working with property owners to remediate the situation. In striving to offer effective and accessible primary care and outpatient services, BMC successfully works with their most utilized health plans to provide asthma education and case management services and provides exceptional care without exception. The city of Boston is reaping the benefits of this powerful collaboration. The hospitalization rate for Boston’s children with asthma has decreased 39 percent and emergency department visits are 16 percent lower.
Health Care Provider
Twelve years ago, the Woodhull North Brooklyn Health Network implemented its comprehensive, evidence-based asthma management program to ensure best practices for asthma care were used to treat all asthma patients. By educating and training health care providers, community organizations and schools, Woodhull has taken a multi-faceted approach to improving asthma care in one of the nation’s highest-risk communities for asthma. At the center of this approach is the Network’s leadership in heading the North Brooklyn Asthma Action Alliance, a coalition that partners with national organizations, community groups and health care facilities to deliver a high standard of asthma care to the community. Supporting this work, the program trains doctors, nurses and hospital residents with its PACE program, which aligns with the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Asthma Care, and utilizes a modified Electronic Health Record to ensure that all of Woodhull’s providers deliver Guidelines-based care. In partnership with Rutgers University, Woodhull performs ground-breaking education on environmental triggers to schools, including the distribution of checklists and diagrams outlining the process to eliminate common triggers. Woodhull also addresses patients’ home environments, distributing environmental control products such as allergen-proof pillow and mattress covers free of charge. Woodhull has renovated the emergency department with a state-of-the-art asthma treatment room, which offers patients assistance with their paperwork while they begin treatment.
This fast-track approach has resulted in easier and more effective access to asthma treatment in emergency situations. The results of Woodhull’s work are captured in its Asthma Registry: The number of visits to the pediatric asthma clinic more than doubled between 2008 and 2009, which correlated to a 58 percent reduction in asthma-related emergency department visits and 67 percent decrease in hospitalizations.
Children’s Hospital Boston developed the Community Asthma Initiative (CAI) in 2005 in response to alarmingly high rates of asthma among children living in Boston’s urban neighborhoods, especially underserved children and families. CAI is a patient-centered program that provides bilingual (Spanish) in-home family asthma education, environmental assessments and remediation; Integrated Pest Management; and coordination with primary care providers, in conjunction with community education, outreach and advocacy. Care is provided and coordinated through a culturally appropriate case management model that identifies barriers to good asthma control and includes home visits conducted by nurses and/or community health workers, depending on the family’s needs. To ensure it provides the services and information the community needs most, CAI convenes a Family Advisory Board. In response to the Family Advisory Board’s vision, CAI delivered an Asthma Community Forum, with over 100 attendees discussing asthma-related issues, including environmental management in homes and schools. CAI also offers educational programs and activities for community-based organizations, schools and provider groups. For example, CAI, along with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), hosts the Boston Asthma Swim Program, which provides children with asthma the opportunity to engage in physical activities while learning about asthma control. To improve insurance coverage for case management and home visits—and to increase access to affordable medications and reimbursements—CAI works closely with the Office of Government Relations at Children’s Hospital Boston, BPHC and community partners, providing support for policy and system changes. The Initiative has achieved impressive results. For CAI patients, asthma-related emergency department visits have dropped by 65 percent and hospitalizations have decreased by 81 percent. Further, CAI calculated a 146 percent return on investment (ROI) to society due to lower hospital costs. Enrolled families have also reported a reduction in the limitation of physical activity (37 percent), asthma- related school absences (39 percent), and asthma-related work absences (49 percent).