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Improved instruction for rescue inhaler use may save lives

In a trial at Chicago hospitals, patients taught to using inhalers with the teach-to-goal method had fewer hospitalizations.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 18, 2016 at 12:01 PM

CHICAGO, March 18 (UPI) -- A new method of teaching asthma and COPD patients to properly use inhalers can prevent adverse health events, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found improving how people use inhalers can prevent hospitalization by using the teach-to-goal technique, which includes multiple cycles of instruction rather than standard instructions read aloud once.

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Previous research has shown as many as 86 percent of patients hospitalized for an asthma or COPD attack report having trouble with their inhalers, though researchers said they were unsure how long-lasting new instructions would be.

For the study, published the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, researchers recruited 120 patients at two hospitals, giving them either teach-to-goal instruction or brief instruction, assessing their skills at the end of instruction, and 30 and 90 days after.

Teach-to-goal instruction included three cycles of demonstration and practice using an inhaler, while the brief instruction group read a set of instructions out loud and discussed their particular lung disease. Sixty percent of the teach-to-goal group used their inhalers properly immediately after the lessons, compared to 11 percent of the standard instruction group.

Thirty days after instruction, the teach-to-goal group had 19 percent fewer acute-care events than the brief group. While patients in both groups slowly used inhalers less properly over time, just 48 percent of the teach-to-goal group used them improperly after 90 days, compared to 76 percent of the brief instruction group.

The results of the new study are similar to a smaller study from the University of Chicago in 2011, which also found teach-to-goal was a better method of instruction.

"Our study shows that there may be improved clinical outcomes to providing teach-to-goal inhaler education in the hospital, especially for patients with lower health literacy levels," Dr. Valeria Press, a researcher at the University of Chicago, said in a press release, "but it also shows clearly that ongoing instruction in inhaler technique is required after discharge for long-lasting skills retention and improved health outcomes."

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