Skip to main content

New Ulm Medical Center

Clinic’s efforts help those with asthma breathe easier

The clinic at New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) has made it easier for patients to manage their asthma, increasing the number of patients who have their asthma under control and decreasing asthma hospitalizations in Brown County from 7.4 to 4.9 per 10,000 people.

The effort to better control asthma began about two years ago as part of a plan at NUMC to track the clinic’s work toward asthma management and report the information under Minnesota Community Measurement, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve health care in the state through data collection.

Although the clinical staff has always done a terrific job of helping asthma patients, they may not have always measured what they were doing in a reportable way, said Sarah Leslie, PharmD, a pharmacist with NUMC.

An NUMC committee that includes physicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, pharmacists and other representatives began to meet and set goals for how to provide optimal care for asthma patients. The goal is for all asthma patients seen at the clinic to complete an asthma action plan each year. An asthma action plan uses a green/yellow/red indication to help patients and their caregivers plan how to manage asthma symptoms.

Another goal is for all asthma patients to have a score of zero on the Asthma Therapy Assessment Questionnaire, which lets patients report how asthma affects their daily life.

As of July 2013, the percentage of patients who have met both of these goals reached an encouraging 40.3 percent percent, said Leslie. The goal is for clinicians and other asthma caregivers to work with patients to reach 55 percent, she said. Leslie adds that there will always be patients who do not meet both goals because they do not come in regularly for appointments or because their asthma is especially hard to control.

Another way NUMC is working to provide better asthma care is through its Better Breathers Club, said respiratory therapist Sandy Kistner. The club offers families and patients with chronic lung disease a place to ask questions and learn more.

“Since everyone in the group has lung disease in common, it’s an informal and non-threatening way to learn and share with others who suffer from the same thing,” said Kistner. The free group sessions are held on the third Thursday of even months (February, April, June, August, October, and December) at 2 p.m. in the lower level conference room of the Clinic.

Six more ways to keep asthma under control

NUMC is making great strides to help local community members manage their asthma. Here are tips suggested by Leslie and Kistner to help keep asthma under control:

  • Go for a checkup. Do this at least once a year, and make sure to have your lung function tested.
  • Work with your physician. Create an asthma action plan together (see sidebar for more information).
  • Know your triggers. Then, try to avoid them. For example, if dust is a trigger, use special mattress and pillow covers. If pollen is a trigger, avoid going outside when pollen counts are at their highest.
  • Be prepared. Have an up-to-date rescue inhaler ready to use. “It shouldn’t be sitting in a drawer somewhere and be three years expired,” said Leslie.
  • Use your medication as prescribed by your physician. If, for some reason, you’re not taking your prescriptions as recommended, let your physician know. Taking your medication as prescribed and staying in touch with your physician are two keys to better asthma management, said Kistner.
  • Seek assistance. If your symptoms change, call to let your health care provider know.

To make an appointment at the NUMC to help manage your asthma, call 507-217-5011.