Breathing Easier

Children's Colorado Breathing Institute patient Christina Fischer

Number of 2012 Asthma Clinic Appointments

2,525

Short, sharp breaths and unrelenting pressure on the lungs – breathing becomes frightening. It's off to the Emergency Department (ED), often a vicious cycle for high-risk asthma patients.

"We want to identify these children early before they're so sick they end up in the ED," explained Children's Colorado pulmonologist Monica Federico, M.D.

Children's Colorado's Breathing Institute aligns physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers and nutritionists to care for high-risk patients. The asthma team contacts patients seen in the ED or who are admitted to the hospital because these children are at increased risk to have another severe asthma attack.

"We tell families that this could happen again and, if their primary care physician agrees, we offer an asthma clinic appointment," Dr. Federico said.

Literature has shown that having an appointment at the asthma clinic after visiting the ED decreases the likelihood of future ED visits.

"After the initial visit, we see them until they are under very good control or until we can establish a partnership with their PCP. The key is consistent follow up," Dr. Federico said.

Community physicians also benefit.

"When they're notified that their patient was seen, they appreciate the information," Dr. Federico said. "Most PCPs don't have a good way to track ED visits so they don't always realize a patient was in the ED more than once in 12 months."

How best to help a child reduce their chances of an asthma attack also extends into the home where any number of environmental triggers can spark an episode. Children's Colorado's Asthma Program is one of the first pediatric specialty clinics to participate in a medical legal partnership empowering families to secure safe, healthy housing.

VIDEO: See how Children's Colorado touched lives in 2012