• Article
  • February 27, 2019

Network of Pediatricians Helps Patient Families Manage Asthma

Children's hospital aligns with pediatricians to deliver asthma care.

Tips for providers and parents

The CHLA Health Network Asthma Action Plan includes tips for providers and parents on managing a child's Asthma. Ronald Ferdman, M.D., Children's Hospital Los Angeles allergist-immunologist, who helped the Health Network develop materials for providers and families, offers these tips:

  • Know a child's asthma triggers; avoid them and respond to them.
  • Let the kids play. Proper medication allows for physical activities.
  • Coughing, not wheezing, can be the first sign of an asthma flare-up.
  • Recommend families use the controller daily even if the child appears healthy.
  • Start quick-relief medicine at the first sign of a cold.

By Katie Sweeney and Lorenzo Benet

For one Los Angeles mom, going on a business trip had always meant coming home to find her son's asthma out of control. But not anymore. Thanks to the new Asthma Action Plan provided by her CHLA Health Network affiliate pediatrician, her husband can confidently manage their child's asthma in her absence. When she returned home from her latest trip, their son was breathing easy.

This family's experience is one of many from the CHLA Health Network, a network of pediatricians affiliated with Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). Launched in 2016, the network includes more than 160 independent physicians caring for 260,000 patients across Los Angeles County and surrounding areas. Affiliate physicians have access to specialists in the CHLA Medical Group and work to deliver care aligned with the latest treatment protocols and research developed at CHLA.

One area where the network is making a difference is asthma care. Asthma affects more than 1 million children in California, nearly 60 percent of whom had an asthma flare-up in the last year—a situation that often sends kids to the emergency room.

"Many parents don't have enough knowledge about this condition," says Bhavana Arora, M.D., medical director for the CHLA Health Network. "They may not understand the importance of their child's medicines and how they work, or how to manage their child's asthma at home."

Sharing best practices

Participating pediatricians receive resources to empower their patients—including materials to help parents and kids better understand asthma and its treatments and a simple, one-page Asthma Action Plan outlining how parents should respond to specific symptoms at home.

Affiliate pediatricians also share best practices with each other and learn the latest evidence-based treatment protocols from CHLA specialists. In addition, CHLA Health Network staff provide training and support to help practices implement new asthma tools, including patient questionnaires, action plans and hands-on instructions for using inhalers.

"This education can make a world of difference for patients," says Cindy Loth-Wiggins, quality improvement coordinator for the CHLA Health Network. "Pediatricians are telling us parents love it."

Asthma action plan makes a difference

The CHLA Health Network implemented its quality program for asthma for five of the network’s 26 practices in the Los Angeles community in 2018. Utilizing the asthma action plan, the practices:

  • Treated 193 patients with 193 initial visits
  • Conducted 147 follow-up visits
  • Documented a 21 percent improvement in asthma control for the group of patients who had an initial and follow-up visit 

Participating pediatricians say the Action Plan helped them improve asthma care for patients and inform parents to gain a better understanding of asthma. Parents tell them it provided confidence in helping their children cope with a chronic illness, which can be a frightening experience for parents. Arora says the organization had 100 percent compliance across all participating practices in reaching the Asthma Action Plan completion rate goal.

The Health Network, which is now comprised of 52 practices, plans on expanding the asthma program to seven more practices this year. "Our participating practices and their patient families were pleased with the outcomes, and we will continue with our common mission of improving outcomes for all children. The goal is to keep kids out of the hospital—and we are making progress toward that goal," says Arora.

Katie Sweeny is a writer for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Lorenzo Benet is Public Relations director for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Send questions or comments.