Managing patients with severe asthma in Australia: Current challenges with the existing models of care
Severe asthma leads to debilitating symptoms for patients and excessive socioeconomic burden for the community. Comprehensive models of care are required to address complex issues, risk factors and comorbidities in patients with severe asthma, and to identify patients most appropriate for specialised treatments. Dedicated severe asthma services improve asthma control, reduce asthma exacerbations and hospital admissions, and improve quality of life. Currently, diverse models of care exist for managing severe asthma across Australia. Most referrals to severe asthma services are from respiratory physicians seeking a second opinion or from primary care for poorly controlled asthma. Despite benefits of specialised severe asthma services, many patients are not referred and resources are limited, often resulting in long waiting times. Patient referral is often unstructured and there are considerable variations in the management of severe asthma with limited access to other health care professionals such as speech pathologists and dieticians, and restricted scope to optimise patient work‐up before referral. Ongoing communication between the specialist and referring clinician is essential for continuity of care but is often lacking. Referral pathways can be optimised by developing referral criteria and guidelines to triage patients with severe asthma and to improve resource efficiency. Additional education and tools for assessing and managing severe asthma are needed, and mechanisms should be developed for involving primary care in the management of stabilised patients. Strategies to increase patient access to multidisciplinary services are recommended.
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