Among Americans with severe asthma, less than half see a specialist to manage their condition, new research shows.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends patients with severe asthma be referred to a specialist for evaluation and care.
To find out how many people with severe asthma see a specialist, researchers examined insurance data from more than 54,000 patients who were 6 years of age and older.
Only 38% saw an allergist/immunologist or a pulmonologist at least once in the year before or after the first observation of severe asthma, the investigators found.
"Specialist care is important for managing any condition, especially a chronic one such as severe asthma," said lead author Dr. Jessica Most, a pulmonologist at Jefferson Health/National Jewish Health, in Philadelphia.
An analysis of a smaller group of nearly 6,000 patients showed that controller medication fills and prescriptions for biologic medications were higher for those seeing a specialist.
After a specialist visit, asthma attacks were much lower (about 38% versus 49%). Hospitalizations, emergency department visits and use of rescue inhalers also were lower for patients during the 12 months after their first visit to a specialist, the study found.
The greatest predictors for a specialist visit were higher numbers of asthma attacks, younger age, and having severe asthma identified in a recent year.
Patients with other non-respiratory health conditions, those 65 and older, and males were less likely to seek specialist care, according to the report published online June 17 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
"Our findings suggest that specialist visits for severe asthma are very underutilized, with only four in 10 patients seeking care over a 2-year period," Most said in a journal news release.
She added that efforts should be made to increase specialist referrals, especially for patients who are less likely to seek out care from an allergist/immunologist or pulmonologist.
The American Lung Association has more on asthma.
SOURCE: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, news release, June 17, 2021