New online tool launched to help asthmatics breathe easier

Incorrect asthma inhaler technique is one of the leading causes of poorly-controlled asthma. Despite receiving adequate treatment, poor adherence and using asthma inhalers incorrectly contributes to people not getting the most out of their medicines.

A new survey released today by NPS MedicineWise shows that most adults using asthma inhalers are confident about their technique. However this is in contrast to figures from the Asthma Handbook showing that most Australians with asthma don’t actually use their inhaler correctly, suggesting there is a need to regularly check their technique with a health professional.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says despite many people’s confidence in their inhaler skills, correcting poor inhaler technique is one way people could take better control of their condition.

“A huge 97% of adults taking asthma medication are confident they’re using their medicine correctly — with 57% saying they’re ‘very confident’ in their inhaler technique — but this doesn’t match with figures from the Asthma Handbook that show up to 90% of Australians with asthma don’t use their inhaler correctly,” she said.

To help tackle the uncertainty around inhaler technique, and to help Australians get the most from their asthma medicine, the Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton MP today launched a new learning resource for health professionals to help people with asthma get their inhaler technique right.

Developed jointly by Asthma Australia and NPS MedicineWise, the free ‘Unlocking asthma inhaler technique’ online learning module will equip pharmacists, nurses (particularly practice nurses) and other health professionals to help people with asthma use their inhaler correctly.

Over half of all respondents to the survey said they had experienced symptoms in the past four weeks, including wheezing, breathlessness and night waking. As many as 3% reported needing to go the hospital in the past four weeks because their wheezing was really bad.

“The majority of the adults surveyed who take asthma medication (72%) said they don’t have a health professional check their inhaler technique.

“With so many people reporting symptoms, this indicates that they may have unknowingly fallen into bad habits, which is why it’s so important to have your asthma inhaler technique checked regularly by a health professional.”

Asthma Australia CEO Mark Brooke says that the majority of people with asthma don’t use their asthma inhaler devices correctly.

“Regardless of the type of inhaler device prescribed, people with asthma are unlikely to use their inhalers correctly unless they’ve received clear instruction, including a demonstration, and they have their inhaler technique checked regularly,” said Mr Brooke.

“Our new online learning module will help health professionals to engage with their customers and patients in a guided conversation about current asthma inhaler technique, and be able to confidently and correctly demonstrate correct asthma inhaler technique.”

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says the learning resource ‘Unlocking asthma inhaler technique’ is part of a longer-term educational program launched mid 2014 for health professionals and consumers about good management of asthma.

“We’re urging people with asthma, and their carers, to take an active role in their health care, to check the facts on asthma, and talk to their health professional about how to best manage their condition,” said Dr Weekes.

“The new survey showed that only 18% of adults diagnosed with asthma have a written action plan that was written by a doctor, but we encourage everyone with asthma to have a written plan with instructions to help you manage your symptoms and recognise worsening asthma.

“The survey also showed that more than half of those taking preventer medication (57%) use it every day. However, it’s recommended that adults who have been prescribed an asthma reliever medication take it every day – so this means that 43% are not using their asthma medication as directed.

“NPS MedicineWise has developed an online repository of information where patients and their carers can access detailed information that will help them better understand their condition and treatment.

“For health professionals, we’re offering our educational visiting program as well as online educational activities including this ‘Unlocking asthma inhaler technique’ online learning resource, an online case study, and a clinical e-audit.”

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