Documenting Asthma Severity: Do We Get It Right?

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30 Scopus citations


Background. The 1997 National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) recommends a severity classification scheme to optimize the use of anti-inflammatory therapy for persistent asthma. Physician documentation of asthma severity is often used as a quality assurance measure. Objective. To test the hypothesis that physician documentation of asthma severity is associated with appropriate use of anti-inflammatory therapy. Design/Methods. Setting: inner-city academic health center. First, we reviewed a consecutive sample of charts of scheduled pediatric patients. Then, we administered a structured parent survey regarding the child's asthma symptoms and current asthma therapy. We used NAEPP guidelines to classify patients' severity of asthma. The main outcome measure was appropriate use of anti-inflammatory therapy. Appropriate therapy was defined as: (1) mild persistent asthmatics using anti-inflammatory therapy, and (2) moderate-severe persistent asthmatics using inhaled steroids. Chart classification of asthma severity was compared with the NAEPP-applied classification. Results. Of 784 charts, 214 (27%) were asthmatic. Of these, 176 (82%) were surveyed. The mean age was 7.4 years; 61% were males. Severity classification was documented in 77% of charts. Chart documentation differed significantly from survey classification for the same patients: (mild intermittent 54% vs. 40%, mild persistent 21% vs. 14%, moderate persistent 24% vs. 36%, severe persistent 1% vs. 10%; all p < .001). Correctly classified patients were more likely to be on appropriate therapy. Conclusions. Physicians underestimated the severity classification of asthmatic patients. Incorrect classification was associated with inappropriate asthma therapy. These findings have implications for the institution of asthma quality improvement programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-665
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Asthma
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 31 2003


  • Anti-inflammatory therapy
  • Asthma
  • Classification
  • Guidelines
  • Pediatrics
  • Severity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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