University of Utah receives $1.9M research award to study asthma in children

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has approved a $1.9 million research award to the University of Utah to study asthma in children and how better monitoring of the disease could improve health.

Flory Nkoy, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., will lead the research project at the University of Utah. Nkoy serves as Associate Research Professor at the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and Research Director for the Division of Pediatric Inpatient Medicine.

Nkoy and his colleagues have developed a new tool, the e-AsthmaTracker (e-AT) to facilitate medical decision-making through ongoing communication between parents and their child's primary care providers.

The e-AT helps engage parents in weekly monitoring of their child's chronic asthma symptoms and guides parents to recognize warning signs of asthma attacks in order to prompt appropriate interventions and, if necessary, visits to primary care providers. The device also provides primary care providers with real-time, objective patient information to monitor the effectiveness of asthma therapy.

Nkoy's award will allow him to assess the effectiveness of a new ambulatory care model supported by the e-AT through comparing outcomes between clinics randomly assigned to the new care model and those in an existing care model. Nkoy hopes to learn whether children and parents in the new care model will have better outcomes such as improved quality of life, improved asthma control, a reduced number of missed school days and fewer acute care visits when using the e-AT system. He also wants to discover whether clinics assigned to the new care model will be more effective in reducing asthma attacks and therefore reducing emergency department visits and hospital admissions.

"The primary beneficiaries of this award are children with asthma. Our research enables and empowers families and their providers to take charge of a difficult to control condition, and create a model for sustainable, cost-effective patient care and smart utilization of information technology in a healthcare setting. This model is replicable across the country and has the potential to shape the future of asthma care delivery in the nation," Nkoy said.

"The e-AT changes current ambulatory asthma care delivery to a new model that is continuous and proactive, focusing on prevention and control, rather than reactive and focusing on management of asthma attacks."

Carrie Byington, M.D., vice-dean for academic affairs and faculty development at the University of Utah School of Medicine, noted that Nkoy's study comes at a time when studying ways to use technology to help parents and children better manage asthma is important: More than 7.1 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the condition.

"The research planned demonstrates the strengths of the Department of Pediatrics and the University of Utah in using technology in innovative ways to improve health and in engaging patients and families in building better tools for managing chronic conditions like asthma," Byington said.

The University of Utah study is one of 51 projects totaling more than $88.6 million approved for funding by PCORI's Board of Governors on May 6. All were selected through a highly competitive review process in which scientists, patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders helped to evaluate more than 400 applications for funding. Proposals were evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, how well they engage patients and other stakeholders, their methodological rigor, and how well they fit within PCORI's national research priorities.

Developing the e-AT was a collaborative effort between the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare's Primary Children's Medical Center.

Chris Maloney, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Inpatient Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Primary Children's Medical Center, said research efforts by Nkoy and his colleagues will benefit the community as a whole.

"I am very excited to have Dr. Nkoy garner this award. Over the past seven years, he has become an expert in the management of asthma across the clinical continuum," Maloney said. " The prestigious PCORI grant allows our team from the University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare and Primary Children's to continue this great work and advance the care for children with asthma in Utah and the rest of the nation."

The awards are part of PCORI's second cycle of primary research funding. This new round of funding follows PCORI's initial approval of $40.7 million in support for 25 projects under the institute's national research priorities. All awards in this most recent round of funding were approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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