U Child Asthma Research Relies on Parents to Track Symptoms

May 16, 2013

The University of Utah has received a 1.9 million dollar research grant to study asthma in children and how better monitoring of the disease could improve health.  The award comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. 

Flory Nkoy is Research Director for the Inpatient Division at Primary Children’s Medical Center, and is leading the study which will involve 10 Utah health clinics and hundreds of local families. Nkoy says this project puts parents in the driver’s seat, so they can control their child’s asthma symptoms rather than the other way around.

“Our approach is to do pro-active management by involving parents in a weekly assessment of their child asthma symptoms so that we can catch warning signs early, and then act before they have an asthma attack,” Nkoy says.

Parents recruited for the study will be given an online tracking tool. Every week, they answer some basic questions about their child’s symptoms. The tool guides parents to recognize warning signs of asthma attacks in order to prompt interventions. Nkoy says the information collected on children with asthma can be overlaid with air quality data and environmental triggers to recognize patterns and personalize care. Bernhard Fassl is a pediatrician at Primary Children’s and a partner in the research project.  He says this tool gives doctors much more complete information about their patients.

“We changed the entire system of how asthma care is being delivered. Rather than waiting for something bad to happen, we give you information that you didn’t have before. You actually know what’s going on with your patients lungs. You can make an informed decision,” Fassl says. “At the same time the parent has information about the child’s asthma systems they didn’t have before.”

In addition to improving care, Fassl says the costs decrease by reducing the number of hospital and ER visits. The research project will take place over three years, and researchers hope the tool will be rolled out nationwide.