Spotlight on Asthma (or, "What's the Deal With the Blue Forms?")

If your child or adolescent has asthma, you will have noticed changes over the last several years in how we monitor and treat the symptoms of asthma. We are currently participating in an ongoing improvement project in cooperation with Children’s Health Alliance/Foundation (a pediatrician-only clinically integrated physicians’ group here in Oregon) that helps us track children with asthma and standardize their treatment. Through this group, we are able to maintain a secure online registry of all of our patients who have been diagnosed with asthma, along with their degree of asthma severity and what measures we have taken to improve their care.

Input from patients and their families regarding the degree of asthma symptoms is a very important component of our asthma management. In order to help us obtain an accurate assessment of your child’s asthma symptoms, we use something called the Asthma Encounter Form… also known around our office as ‘the blue form’. Typically you will be given this form at check-in, but you may also be given the form by nursing staff or by your child’s provider. It contains a list of standard questions that address both the severity of your child’s asthma as well as the impact of asthma on the life of your child and on the family. The answers that you mark enable us to swiftly get an impression of how well the asthma is controlled, saving you time in our office.

We ask that you answer these questions every time your child or adolescent is being seen for asthma or for an acute illness (such as a bad cough) in which asthma might be playing a major role. In addition, we’ll ask you to fill out this form at least once a year even for those patients who hardly ever have problems with their asthma. So you might get the ‘blue form’ when you are expecting to only talk about a sprained ankle — but we still want to take that opportunity to make sure that your child’s asthma is well controlled and not a problem for him or her.

In general, children and adolescents with intermittent asthma (occasional symptoms, usually with colds or with exercise, no daily medication prescribed) need to be seen for their asthma at least once a year. Children with persistent forms of asthma (ongoing symptoms even when well, nighttime cough, or on a daily preventive medication) need to be seen more frequently, usually every one to three months depending on the severity of the asthma and the degree of control we are able to achieve. If your child has a significant flare-up of his or her asthma that is severe enough to require oral steroids (prednisone, prednisolone, or dexamethasone), we usually want to see them back for a follow-up visit about a month later.

Thanks for partnering with us in improving the care of children and adolescents with asthma, and please feel free to ask us questions about this process at any step along the way.