On September 20, 2019, statewide health care organizations and partners hosted a free, day-long conference to share best practices in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Because improving the health of patients with asthma and COPD is a stated priority across the Vermont healthcare landscape, clinicians and community organizations from across the state were invited to attend. The Asthma and COPD Conference focused on tangible, practical strategies for working with patients and their families to prevent and manage asthma and COPD.

As the day began, the room filled with attendees from areas including Rutland, Hartland, and Burlington. OneCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norman Ward, MD welcomed the crowd and outlined the value of participating in quality improvement, stating that we have much to learn from each other, and that the things we measure often improve. He also emphasized the importance of the “whole person” approach to care including collaboration between medical and community resources across the continuum of care.

Drs. David Kaminsky, MD, Kelly Cowan, MD, and Keith Robinson, MD from the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) each presented best practice topics, including how to assess and properly stage degree of illness for COPD and/or asthma, how to document treatment of asthma and COPD in an electronic health record (EHR), and how to treat pediatric patients. Dr. Kaminsky described research supporting the use of spirometry and best practices for interpreting results to correctly diagnose both conditions.

Sarah Cosgrove, RCP, C-TTSM, AE-C, Community Health Education Coordinator at the Rutland Regional Medical Center and Melissa Barron, RN, AE-C, Nurse Clinician at UVMMC Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine spoke about the importance of effective patient-facing asthma education and demonstrated proper inhaler usage for the group. Cosgrove and Barron emphasized the importance of correct inhaler usage and the usage of spacers which significantly impact the delivery of asthma medication to patients using inhalers.

In the afternoon, the focus shifted to quality improvements and the upcoming asthma and COPD learning collaborative, which is open to all pediatricians and primary care practitioners in the state of Vermont. The learning collaborative, scheduled to launch in March of 2020, creates a statewide learning community that includes expert faculty, skilled facilitators and a comprehensive curriculum supported by peer-to-peer learning and continuing educational opportunities. This model focuses on quality measures and provides quality improvement coaches to assist practices in quality improvement work.

Pamela Stevens MSN, RN, CLSSGB, Senior Quality Improvement Partner at the UVMMC Jeffords Institute for Quality and Dr. Alicia Jacobs, MD, Family Medicine Physician at UVMMC Family Medicine in Colchester presented effective strategies for quality improvement in practices. Dr. Jacobs described the most successful quality improvement projects she has been involved with and the reasons team-based quality improvement work succeeds.

Attendees worked in teams to identify specific quality measures for asthma and COPD, targeting data measurement strategies and workflow improvements that could be made in their organizations. Quality measures related to asthma and COPD are included in the Vermont All-Payer Model, the Vermont Department of Health “3-4-50” initiative, the Vermont ACO quality measures, the Blueprint for Health Community Profiles, and other state and local initiatives.

At the end of the day, attendees and presenters alike left with a deep understanding of best practices in diagnosing, treating, and educating patients to improve asthma and COPD outcomes.

The event was organized by OneCare Vermont, the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), the Vermont Blueprint for Health, Support and Services at Home (SASH), Quality Innovation Network Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO), and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT).

For more information about the upcoming Asthma and COPD Learning Collaborative, please contact Erin Creley, MBA, CPHQ, Quality Improvement Specialist at OneCare Vermont.

Check out some photos from the event.