Breathing Easy

Published On 03/24/2014

Federally funded program removes barriers for asthma patients, reduces health care costs

Hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits for high-risk asthma patients are down for children enrolled in a new Le Bonheur program geared at helping improve quality of life and lower health care costs.

CHAMP program has enrolled 200 high-risk asthma ptients since 2013The CHAMP (Changing High-Risk Asthma in Memphis through Partnership) program has enrolled 200 high-risk asthma patients since its inception in 2013. Of those enrolled in the program, hospitalizations are down from 9 percent from the year before enrollment to 5.4 percent in the program’s fifth quarter. The program has also reported zero avoidable asthma-related hospitalizations and no asthma-related deaths.

CHAMP is funded by a three-year $2.9 million Health Care Innovation grant by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Its chief aims are to:

  • Improve health of children with high-risk asthma by reducing emergency department and hospital visits
  • Lower overall asthma-related health care costs
  • Improve the health care experience for patients and families
  • Improve the quality of life for children with asthma

“In order to follow through with the education and plans of care, families need support to overcome the barriers that get in the way of following medical advice,” said Christie Michael, MD, medical director for CHAMP and an allergist-immunologist.

To address those barriers, CHAMP has employed social workers and community health workers to support families in their homes and communities, providing environmental interventions, reinforcing asthma education and helping to navigate psycho-social issues. For example, the team works directly with patients’ school nurses, ensuring they have the medications and information they need to treat asthma emergencies. CHAMP also works closely with the patient’s primary care physician to provide the most up-to-date information on the patients they serve.

“CHAMP is here to help connect the dots in the community,” said Michael.

The program continually tracks 54 data variables in an asthma registry to ensure it is making progress on goals. It estimates a cost savings of more than $4 million by June 2015 and has already seen reduced Emergency Department and urgent care use.

“For many of these children, their asthma keeps them from being normal kids,” said Dennis Stokes, MD, MPH, medical director of Pulmonology and co-principal investigator on the project. “Helping kids to overcome potential limitations of asthma enables them to be more active and attend school more often, which helps to prevent the common co-morbidities of obesity and diabetes. CHAMP is truly an innovative program and is changing our care model for kids with asthma.”

Pediatric asthma in our community

  • 3,500 visits to Le Bonheur each year make asthma the hospital’s most common diagnosis.
  • In Tennessee, asthma cases (adults and children) lead to $41.4 million in health care costs.
  • Asthma causes 10.5 million missed schools days and 14.2 million missed days of work in the United States.
  • Shelby County has one of the highest rates of asthma-related hospitalizations in the state of
  • Tennessee.

Children affected by asthma:

  • 15 percent in Arkansas
  • 13.7 percent in Mississippi
  • 10 percent in Tennessee

* Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments.