Asthma Awareness: HCSC Is Investing In Keeping Kids Healthy

by Bridget Burke, HCSC

May 25, 2017

Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) serves more than 15 million members through its Blue Cross and Blue Shield® Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. One of the most prevalent conditions impacting our members is asthma, leading to both cost and stress for patients and their families. Asthma, when poorly managed, is a significant driver of often avoidable costs through increased hospitalizations and emergency department visits. While there is no cure, asthma symptoms can be mitigated through enhanced management strategies.

HCSC has been a leader when it comes to community investment and addressing social determinants of health, specifically through our signature community investment initiative, Healthy Kids, Healthy Families®. Across five states, this initiative supports services and programs in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, managing and preventing disease, and supporting safe environments. Since the effort began in 2011, HCSC has invested more than $47 million across its communities, providing more than 21 million health and wellness services to individuals in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

HCSC looked at medical claims data to understand what conditions impact our members and communities the most, such as asthma. Using this data, we reached out to varying community-based organizations to discover what programs exist that can help our members better manage their asthma.

That’s how the company connected with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, and learned of an evidence-based asthma management program they developed that showed very promising results. Beginning in 2012, HCSC partnered with the American Lung Association organization to expand this evidenced-based asthma management program across its five states and provided data to help direct the interventions to primary care clinics serving high-risk populations of children with asthma. The American Lung Association then invited these clinics to take part in a year-long training program to improve the quality of care delivered to patients with asthma.

HCSC and the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest have continued to work together to tackle asthma by providing primary care clinics with a 12-month asthma quality improvement initiative and building capacity and sustainability through community health outreach and education. Through the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma program, both organizations partner with a shared goal of improving health outcomes for patients with asthma while also reducing unnecessary health care utilization through sustainable and focused interventions.

Using HCSC’s medical claims data, we can track the outcomes for patients at the clinics engaged in this quality improvement initiative. Overall, the effort demonstrated a more than 50 percent reduction in both hospitalizations and emergency department visits for children and adults who benefitted from the program.

Even after three years of working within the primary health care clinic environment, there was still more we could do to help individuals better manage their asthma on a daily basis. To address this, HCSC and the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest expanded the partnership to include home-based environmental assessments to identify and remove triggers that can worsen asthma symptoms. Some of the most common triggers are dust, carpet, strong cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, and pet dander. Since 2016, more than 140 children and their parents received home assessments, remediation, and in-home asthma education. Additionally, the home visits have provided incredible insight for the American Lung Association’s asthma experts who are using this information to identify ways to tackle these issues through provider and patient education in the primary care clinics.

Over the last five years, the program has engaged more than 120 primary health care clinics; supported nearly 2,000 community education and outreach activities; and assisted over 190,000 health care and school professionals, and parents of children with asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the program and these results with the 2017 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management for improving health outcomes for people with asthma and making the health care system work harder and better for everyone.

Bridget Burke is Director of Public Affairs at HCSC.