Atrium Health clinicians, patients and researchers have developed an interactive, web-based tool to help patients, their caregivers and providers create an action plan to manage asthma symptoms and lead healthy, active lives.

Child Health | 2 months ago

Using Technology to Help Kids Control Asthma and Prevent Asthma Attacks

According to the CDC, about 1 in 12 children in the U.S. have asthma, which can lead to missed school days, hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Atrium Health clinicians, patients and researchers have developed an interactive, web-based tool to help patients, their caregivers and providers create an action plan to manage asthma symptoms and lead healthy, active lives.

In the United States, asthma affects the health and quality of life of millions of children. Many patients with asthma struggle to control symptoms and asthma exacerbations are the leading cause of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and missed school days.

Elizabeth Burton's, RN, pediatric program manager with Community Care Partners of Greater Mecklenburg, daughter Kati has struggled with asthma her entire life. Asthma hits her the hardest when seasons change; when cold and flu numbers peak and pollen blankets our cars. Other triggers, like dust and mold, are common warning signs for Kati, but it wasn't until age 15 she started taking her asthma seriously, thanks to Coach McLungs℠ (formerly Carolinas Asthma Coach).

Developed and piloted at Atrium Health,  Coach McLungs is a web-based platform designed to provide a unique patient-centered experience to help patients suffering from asthma, and their caregivers, truly understand what asthma is and how it is treated. The interactive, digital experience – incorporating characters, sports and humor – engages patients, caregivers and their doctors in a tailored conversation about asthma.

"The ‘coach’ determined Kati wasn't taking her medication as often as she needed," says Burton, who also serves as co-author for the study. "We found her providers needed to increase her medication dosage and meet regularly with her pediatrician and pulmonologist. The ‘coach’ helped move her in a direction where she has more control, feels more empowered and can acknowledge the symptoms quicker to stay on track with managing her asthma."

So, how does it work?

  1. Before a visit with their doctor, a pediatric patient and her/his caregiver engage with Coach McLungs and receive tailored education about asthma, triggers and treatments.
  2. Coach McLungs gathers information about goals, adherence and symptoms and provides personalized recommendations for both the patient and provider.
  3. The patient, caregiver and provider share in the decision-making and create a personalized treatment plan at the point of care.

Andy McWilliams, MD, author of the study and principal investigator, explains the end goal is to help patients, caregivers and providers have a more productive doctor visit and ensure they are all equally involved in creating a feasible and sustainable action plan to maintain the patient's asthma.

Led by a multidiscipline team of Atrium Health clinicians, patients and researchers, Coach McLungs was implemented and piloted in four pediatric, family medicine clinics and children’s emergency department to evaluate the effects and feasibility of the platform in pediatric care settings. During the platform’s pilot phase, results showed that 90% of participants and caregivers engaged and shared in the treatment decision with their provider, patients' knowledge and understanding of asthma improved on average from 52% to 77%, and 100% responded they would recommend  Coach McLungs to a friend.

"Having asthma myself – and having practiced in several city hospitals where unique environment triggers cause major exacerbations for patients – It’s incredible to be involved in this work to help offer patients a new alternative to treatment plans in order to better control asthma," says Cheryl Courtlandt, MD, pediatrician and co-author of the study. " Coach McLungs benefits both the provider and the patient. It is a time-saver, allowing the provider and the patient to focus on the areas you need to act on and implement a sustainable treatment plan.”

In September 2021, Atrium Health was awarded nearly $3.5 million in grant funding from the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to implement Coach McLungs across all Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatric primary care and family medicine practices. Hazel Tapp, PhD, principal investigator of the study, was awarded the Research Project Grant (R01) grant funding to implement and evaluate the platform across the Atrium Health enterprise.

If interested in learning more about Coach McLungs, please contact Kelly Reeves at Kelly.Reeves@AtriumHealth.org.