Apr. 1, 1998 University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have found that a new treatment alternative for people suffering from severe asthma attacks is more effective and much less costly than traditional hospital inpatient care.
Researchers estimate that the alternative treatment, known as an emergency department observation unit, costs $1,202 per patient compared with $2,247 per patient for inpatient care -- a drop of 47 percent.
The UIC team's findings will be published in the April issue of the journal Medical Care.
The emergency department observation unit approach is a much-needed innovation as the prevalence of asthma in the United States and the cost of treating it escalate, said Robert Rydman, lead author and associate professor of health policy and administration in UIC's School of Public Health.
"As third-party payers come to realize the cost savings and higher patient satisfaction in emergency department outpatient units, they will serve as the preferred standard of care for a great many asthmatics," Rydman said.
Asthma sufferers, especially in poor urban neighborhoods, frequently rely on large public hospital emergency departments to obtain care during severe asthma attacks. Experts estimate that 20 million people in this country suffer from asthma. Prevalence rates increased 29 percent from 1980 to 1987. From 1980 to 1987, the death rate from asthma increased 31 percent.
The UIC researchers studied 113 patients at the Cook County Hospital emergency department. Roughly half were treated under the new method, formally known as a treatment protocol, and the rest received traditional inpatient care.
In addition to requiring substantially less costly care, the group receiving the new treatment scored higher in five of eight quality-of-life measures: physical functioning, role functioning, emotional and social functioning, mental health and vitality. There was no significant difference between the patient groups, however, in a standard measure of airway obstruction or relapse rates.
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