To assess the practice-level effects of (1) a physician peer leader intervention and (2) peer leaders in combination with the introduction of asthma education nurses to facilitate care improvement. And, to compare findings with previously reported patient-level outcomes of trial enrollees.
Data were included on children 5–17 years old with asthma in 40 primary care practices, affiliated with managed health care plans enrolled in the Pediatric Asthma Care Patient Outcomes Research Team (PORT) randomized trial.
Primary care practices were randomly assigned to one of two care improvement arms or to usual care. Automated claims data were analyzed for 12-month periods using a repeated cross-sectional design. The primary outcome was evidence of at least one controller medication dispensed among patients with persistent asthma. Secondary outcomes included controller dispensing among all identified asthmatics, evidence of chronic controller use, and the dispensing of oral steroids. Health service utilization outcomes included numbers of ambulatory visits and hospital-based events.
The proportion of children with persistent asthma prescribed controllers increased in all study arms. No effect of the interventions on the proportion receiving controllers was detected (peer leader intervention effect 0.01, 95 percent confidence interval [CI]: −0.07, 0.08; planned care intervention effect −0.03, 95 percent CI: −0.09, 0.02). A statistical trend was seen toward an increased number of oral corticosteroid bursts dispensed in intervention practices. Significant adjusted increases in ambulatory visits of 0.08–0.10 visits per child per year were seen in the first intervention year, but only a statistical trend in these outcomes persisted into the second year of follow-up. No differences in hospital-based events were detected.
This analysis showed a slight increase in ambulatory asthma visits as a result of asthma care improvement interventions, using automated data. The absence of detectable impact on medication use at the practice level differs from the positive intervention effect observed in patient self-reported data from trial enrollees. Analysis of automated data on nonenrollees adds information about practice-level impact of care improvement strategies. Benefits of practice-level interventions may accrue disproportionately to the subgroup of trial enrollees. The effect of such interventions may be less apparent at the level of practices or health plans.