August 6, 2017

Asthma referrals: a key component of asthma management that needs to be addressed

David Price, Leif Bjermer, David A Bergin, Rafael Martinez
1Centre of Academic Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK; 2Observational and Pragmatic Research Institute, Singapore; 3Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden; 4Novartis Ireland Limited, Dublin, Ireland; 5Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland

Abstract: Heterogeneity of asthma and difficulty in achieving optimal control are the major challenges in the management of asthma. To help attain the best possible clinical outcomes in patients with asthma, several guidelines provide recommendations for patients who will require a referral to a specialist.
Such referrals can help in clearing the uncertainty from the initial diagnosis, provide tailored treatment options to patients with persistent symptoms and offer the patients access to health care providers with expertise in the management of the asthma; thus, specialist referrals have a substantial impact on disease prognosis and the patient’s health status. Hurdles in implementing these recommendations include lack of their dissemination among health care providers and nonadherence to these guidelines; these hurdles considerably limit the implementation of specialist referrals, eventually affecting the rate of referrals. In this review, recommendations for specialist referrals from several key international and national asthma guidelines and other relevant published literature are evaluated. Furthermore, we highlight why referrals are not happening, how this can be improved, and ultimately, what should be done in the specialist setting, based on existing evidence in published literature.

Keywords:
 asthma, disease management, specialization, primary care physicians, referral

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