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‘Evidence-based implementation’ of paediatric asthma guidelines in a rural emergency department


Professor Steven Doherty, Emergency Department, Tamworth Hospital, Locked Bag 9783, Tamworth NEMSC, Tamworth, NSW 2348, Australia. Fax: +61 267 612 355; email:;


Aim:  To determine if an evidence-based implementation (EBI) could lead to improved compliance with guidelines for acute asthma in children aged 1–15 years presenting to a large rural emergency department.

Methods:  Pre-intervention, post-intervention and 12-month follow-up audits were performed to determine the impact of an EBI strategy used to increase compliance with current asthma guidelines. The pre-intervention audit was conducted from 1 April to 30 June 2004, and follow-up data were collected from 1 September to 30 November 2004. The 12-month follow-up audit was conducted from 1 August to 31 October 2005. All audits were chart reviews. The intervention was an EBI strategy that was devised and then used to implement established guidelines for the emergency department management of paediatric asthma.

Results:  There were 51 presentations pre-intervention, 66 post-intervention and 68 at 12-month follow-up with no differences noted in the severity of asthma between the groups. At 12-month follow-up, there were significant increases in the documentation of asthma severity (45% to 90%, P < 0.001), use of spirometry (32% to 66%, P = 0.012), use of spacers (5% to 53%, P < 0.001) and use of written short-term asthma management plans (16% to 69%, P < 0.001). There was a reduction in the use of ipratropium bromide in mild asthma (31% to 3%, P < 0.001). There was no significant change in the use of systemic steroids (74% to 62%, P = 0.29) or antibiotic use in afebrile patients (15% to 6%, P = 0.175). For the seven clinical indicators (CIs) combined, compliance with the guideline increased from 47% to 79% (P < 0.001). Positive changes in clinical behaviour occurred immediately and compliance with all seven CIs was 83% immediately post intervention before falling, non-significantly, to 79% at 12-month follow-up (P = 0.142).

Conclusions:  The pre-intervention audit identified a low rate of compliance with current asthma guidelines across seven CIs of asthma care. The intervention significantly increased compliance with five of the CIs and for the seven CIs aggregated. Positive changes in clinical behaviour were immediate and the gains were sustained at 12 months.

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