Australia has a high prevalence of asthma and there is evidence that proactive management and care planning can improve health outcomes. In 2001, the Australian Government introduced the Asthma 3+ Visit Plan to better support asthma care. However, the model of care implemented had never been formally tested and participation in the program began to decline.
University of NSW researchers collaborated with GPs to investigate why this was the case and found the major barriers to greater uptake were the complexity and administrative work of the program, as well as the requirement for a patient to have three visits in four months.
The researchers, working in partnership and parallel with the University of Adelaide, implemented a study to examine models of systematic asthma care similar to the Asthma 3+ Visit Plan. The study included the use of a register-recall system to prompt 565 patients to see their GP for an asthma management review. Only one third of patients attended and, although the majority felt it was worthwhile, the study found no significant overall change in their care or health outcomes.
This partnership between the two university general practice disciplines produced an evidence base about how the Asthma 3+ program could be modified to improve its feasibility and effectiveness. The original research had a considerable impact on policy and the future of the program. Its recommendations were consistent with changes made by the Commonwealth, which simplified the program to increase its use among GPs and their patients.