Genetics, better imaging capabilities and other high-tech inventions have all brought great advances to the medical field. In many cases, however, nothing can replace old-fashioned legwork when it comes to improving healthcare. A successful program in Colorado that relies on legwork could be a model for asthma care across the nation.
Lori Jarrell, RN, has driven more than 40,000 miles bringing expert knowledge and The Asthma Toolkit to medical practices in rural Colorado.
Registered nurse Lori Jarrell has logged more than 40,000 miles crisscrossing the highways and byways of rural eastern Colorado, bringing expert knowledge from National Jewish Health to the people who need it most: the primary care medical practices who care for asthma patients.
Jarrell is the outreach coordinator for the Asthma Toolkit Program, directed by Bruce Bender, PhD, head of Pediatric Behavioral Health at National Jewish Health. Jarrell visits primary care providers and teaches them best practices for asthma diagnosis and treatment, many of which were developed at National Jewish Health. She provides the practices with spirometers, instruments used to evaluate patients' breathing capabilities, and dozens of Asthma Toolkits, a small kit for patients that contain educational materials, a peak flow meter and asthma symptom diary.
"I feel I am truly making a difference," said Jarrell. "Time and again, physicians and their staff have told me how this program has empowered them to diagnose, manage and inspire their asthma patients."
Initial findings suggest the program is making a real difference. The Asthma Toolkit Program has resulted in a 10-fold increase in the use of spirometry, a crucial tool for effective asthma diagnosis. Most practices have also initiated or increased use of asthma action plans, and increased prescriptions of inhaled corticosteroids, the most effective controller medication for asthma. Based on those statistics, Dr. Bender conservatively predicts that the program will result in a 33 percent drop in asthma hospitalizations in eastern Colorado. In spite of severe budget restrictions, the state of Colorado has funded an expansion of the program into southern Colorado.
"Discoveries made at academic medical centers like National Jewish Health shape the best practices in asthma care," said Bender. "If we are not careful, however, that expert knowledge can remain secluded within the academic medical community where it serves relatively few. Lori is spreading that expert knowledge to healthcare providers in rural America who are using it to improve the health of their patients."