Clinical pathways for asthma are tools that have the potential to improve compliance with nationally recognized management guidelines, but their effect on patient outcomes has not been documented.
To determine the effect of an asthma clinical pathway on patients' length of stay, use of nebulized β-agonist therapy while hospitalized, and use of acute care clinics for 2 weeks after discharge.
The study was a randomized, controlled trial. Patients between the ages of 2 and 18 years admitted with an asthma exacerbation and not under the care of an asthma specialist were eligible for the study. Patients were randomized either to a conventional ward (control group) or to a ward using the clinical pathway (intervention group). For 2 weeks after discharge, we collected data to determine whether patients visited a health care provider for worsening asthma.
One hundred ten patients (26%) were enrolled. Control and intervention groups had similar demographic and asthma severity profiles. The intervention group had an average length of stay 13 hours shorter than did the control group. In addition, at every dosing interval, the intervention group received less nebulized β-agonist therapy. There were no deaths in either group.
A clinical pathway for inpatient asthma decreased the length of stay and β-agonist medication use with no adverse outcomes or increased acute-care encounters through 2 weeks after discharge.