Asthma Action Plans Enhance Patient Care

 Published: May 1, 2018

By: Heather Willden


image of asthma medications

Each patient you treat is unique. While symptoms between patients may be similar, the treatment and care you give will be distinctive for the individual. For your asthma patients, an asthma action plan can help deliver unified and strategic care. AARC Members Doug Gardenhire, EdD, RRT, RRT-NPS, FAARC, and Dave Burnett, PhD, RRT, AE-C, share their insights into the purpose and value of asthma action plans for patients.

What is the purpose of an asthma action plan?

The asthma action plan helps empower patients to have a part in managing their asthma.

“The primary purpose of an asthma action plan is to serve as a tool for the asthma patient to monitor and control his or her asthma,” said Dr. Burnett.

Dr. Gardenhire explains that a written asthma action plan is a strategy that provides the patient self-guided management of their disease. Patients will make changes to their care based on changes in symptoms.

“The effective use of a written action plan includes education provided by a healthcare provider,” Dr. Gardenhire said.

What value do you see in patients having an asthma action plan?

“A written plan is most valuable,” said Dr. Gardenhire. “Ultimately, the plan improves asthma control.”

According to Dr. Gardenhire, patients that use an action plan can reduce asthma morbidity, reduce asthma-related visits to clinics and hospitals and reduce time missed at school or work.

For Dr. Burnett, the value is two-fold: “First, to improve the respiratory health of the patient by decreasing exacerbations, especially life-threatening acute episodes. Next, to decrease the financial burden to our healthcare system.”

How do you work to ensure all patients have an asthma action plan?

All asthma patients can benefit from having a plan; however, both Dr. Gardenhire and Dr. Burnett explain the challenges to making this happen.

“You can implement strategies for disseminating asthma action plans to patients,” Dr. Burnett said. “I’m sure there are RTs that have developed fine strategies to assure as many patients as possible receive asthma action plans. Sustaining those efforts are likely the most challenging.”

Dr. Burnett suggests incorporating the asthma action plan into the asthma patient’s EMR for routine visits will help improve the dissemination.

“If EMRs can be shared across and between the health systems, more asthma patients will likely receive an asthma action plan,” Dr. Burnett said. “Multiple contact points and caregivers who are capable of communicating the use of an asthma action plan will help increase the proportion of asthma patients who use an asthma action plan.”

Dr. Gardenhire continued to note that patients not seeking regular care for their asthma serve as a challenge for the inability to ensure all patients have a plan.

“However, respiratory therapists need to work in an interprofessional team to elicit the assistance from all healthcare providers to collectively provide the education that an asthma action plan is needed to successfully care for asthma,” said Dr. Gardenhire.

What tips would you offer other RTs for developing asthma action plans for patients?

Dr. Burnett advises keeping things simple.

“Keep it simple and focus on the basics that will have the greatest impact on the patient,” Dr. Burnett said.

Dr. Gardenhire recommends exploring written plans that already exist from health organizations, such as the National Institute for Health (NIH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC)

“The best tip is that you do not need to develop a plan,” said Dr. Gardenhire. “The tip would be to find the one that is best for your institution. Share the written plan with your interprofessional team so that everyone is consistent in the use of the same plan.”

Interested earning the Asthma Educator Certification?

The AARC Asthma Educator Certification Preparation Course has been assisting RTs and RNs since the NAECB debuted the AE-C examination in 2002. More than 4,500 professionals have benefited from the collection of lectures, self-assessment examinations, and CRCE post-tests based on the content of the NHLBI Expert Panel Reports (EPR).

Sign up for the 2018 Asthma Educator Certification Prep Course

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

Heading to the New Era

Elevate | Engage | Advocate | Educate

Copyright © 2024 American Association for Respiratory Care
9425 N. MacArthur Blvd, Suite 100, Irving, TX 75063-4706
(972) 243-2272  |