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Keywords:

  • older;
  • asthma;
  • guidelines;
  • quality of care

OBJECTIVES: To assess the adequacy of asthma care reported by a group of older adults who were subsequently hospitalized for their asthma.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Fifteen managed care organizations in the United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Adults with asthma, enrolled in managed care.

MEASUREMENTS: Patient survey of demographics, asthma symptoms, health status, comorbid conditions, asthma treatment, asthma knowledge, and asthma self-management at baseline and 1 year later.

RESULTS: Of 254 older adults, 38 (15.0%) reported being hospitalized for asthma at 1-year follow-up. Of these, 22.9% owned a peak flow meter (PFM). Of those with allergies, only about half (56.0%) had been told how to avoid allergens and had been referred for formal allergy testing. Adrenergic drug use was high in some patients. Nearly all (94.6%) used β-agonist metered-dose inhalers (MDIs); 60.0% reported theophylline; 17.1% reported β-agonist MDI overuse (>8 puffs per day); 10.5% reported β-agonist MDI over-use and theophylline; and 13.2% reported both β-agonist MDI over-use and oral β-agonist use. Only 18.4% of respondents rated their overall asthma attack knowledge as excellent. Compared with nonhospitalized older adults, the hospitalized group reported care that was more consistent with guidelines, but also higher rates of potentially toxic combinations of adrenergic drugs. Compared with younger hospitalized adults, older hospitalized adults had clear deficiencies, including lower use of PFMs (55.3% vs 22.9%) and worse asthma self-management knowledge.

CONCLUSIONS: There are many opportunities to improve both the pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic care of older adults with asthma. Overuse of and potentially toxic combinations of inhaled and oral sympathomimetics should probably be avoided. Older asthmatics may also benefit from increased specialty referral, PFM use, allergy testing, and asthma teaching.