NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with asthma may be able to better manage their symptoms with the help of Web-based resources and interactivity, a study published Monday suggests.
In a year-long study of 200 adults with asthma, researchers found that adding Internet-based consultations to routine care helped patients better control their symptoms day-to-day.
Compared with patients who stayed with standard care alone, those who received online help showed greater improvements in symptom control over one year and were more likely to report symptom-free days in recent weeks.
The Internet program did not, however, show any effect on the frequency of asthma attacks.
Still, the findings highlight the potential for using the Web to improve asthma care, the researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
For the study, patients were given access to a Web site that provided education and allowed them to monitor changes in their symptoms. A nurse who specialized in asthma care helped patients interpret their symptom shifts and make medication changes when needed.
“Thanks to continuous monitoring, patients can effectively adjust their medication, which empowers them to control their asthma and live full, and active, lives,” said lead researcher Dr. Victor van der Meer, of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
Getting online advice from a nurse could also make asthma management more convenient, according to van der Meer.
“One of the strengths of the Internet program,” he told Reuters Health, “is the use of e-communication. Many patients can be guided, and face-to-face consultations can be reduced.”
Nurse specialists, as the bridge between doctors and patients, would play a key role in expanding such Web-based programs, according to van der Meer.
Potentially, he said, one or more primary healthcare centers could employ one nurse specialist who would manage the online program and serve possibly hundreds of patients.
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, July 21, 2009.
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