Patient and physician asthma deterioration terminology: results from the 2009 Asthma Insight and Management survey


Long-term achievement of asthma control is dependent in part on the use of mutually understandable asthma terminology in all verbal and written patient-physician communications. Using data from the Asthma Insight and Management (AIM) survey, the objective of this analysis is to provide a contemporary depiction of asthma deterioration terminology as used by current asthma patients and physicians in the United States. As part of the 2009 AIM survey, current asthma patients (≥12 years of age; weighted n = 2499) and physicians (n = 309) were queried about their recognition, understanding, and/or use of the terms "asthma attack," "asthma flare-up," and "asthma exacerbation" in telephone interviews. Nearly all patients had heard the term "asthma attack" (97%), but relatively few had heard the term "asthma exacerbation" (24%); 71% had heard "asthma flare-up." In contrast, physicians reported using the term "asthma attack" least (65%) and the term "asthma exacerbation" most (77%) when discussing asthma with their patients; 70% reported using "asthma flare-up." Among patients familiar with "asthma flare-up" and "asthma exacerbation" (n = 502), only 38% said that the terms mean the same thing; nearly all physicians (94%) said that the terms mean the same thing. Collectively, data from the AIM survey suggest that patients and physicians use different asthma deterioration terminology and, more importantly, that they do not necessarily understand each other's terms. Standardizing asthma deterioration terminology may help optimize asthma patient-physician communication to improve patient understanding of written asthma action plans and therefore, enhance patient outcomes.

Publication Title

Allergy and asthma proceedings