Treating chronic illness can be a challenge. It requires regular medical care, education and medication. It also requires one thing that is almost always in short supply in health care: Time.When Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico wanted to improve care for children with asthma, one approach involved revamping the way clinics treat asthma patients. It is part of an innovative project called Enhancing Care for Children with asthma that partners with the American Lung Association of New Mexico. The project has generated some dramatic results. In the first two years, results from 12 New Mexico clinics show that the number of asthma-related visits to emergency departments as well as the number of hospital stays for their young patients with asthma are down a whopping 80 percent.Officials at the Rio Rancho Clinic outside Albuquerque say the improved results at their clinic are due to a systematic approach to treating children with asthma. The approach has been so successful in treating asthma that the clinic has adapted it for use in treating other chronic illnesses, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s also using the project’s methods for well-child visits, treating depression and following up on patients with concussions .It’s all in the approach“One of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to standardize care across all providers,” says Dr. Kristina Gutierrez-Barela of the Rio Rancho Clinic.In clinics like Rio Rancho, staff turnover can be high and patients often walk in without appointments. The clinic was good at treating asthma crises, but there never seemed to be enough time to teach the children and their caregivers how to manage the illness on a day-to-day basis so they could avoid those crises.That changed when the clinic started working with the American Lung Association of New Mexico as part of the Enhancing Care for Children with asthma project. The Association showed the clinic how to come up with a standard method for treating asthma patients.“The clinic realized it can’t do everything in a 15-minute visit with the doctor,” says Kathy Moseley of the American Lung Association of New Mexico.Instead, patients with asthma get a 30-minute visit that involves the entire staff. That ensures patients get the pre-appointment prep, education, and follow-up they need to more effectively manage their asthma.It works like this:
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