Do written action plans improve patient outcomes in asthma? An evidence-based analysis

Frank Lefevre*, Margaret Piper, Kevin Weiss, David Mark, Noreen Clark, Naomi Aronson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Current guidelines recommend use of written action plans and peak flow monitoring as key components of asthma care. Our study assesses whether written action plans, with or without peak flow monitoring, have an independent effect on outcomes when used as a component of asthma self-management. STUDY DESIGN: This was a systematic review of published studies. Two independent reviewers followed a prospective protocol for study selection and data abstraction. Outcome data were synthesized qualitatively; they were not appropriate for quantitative meta-analysis. Our comprehensive literature search used MEDLINE, Embase, the Cochrane Library, and a hand search of recent bibliographies. The search was limited to full-length, peer-reviewed articles with abstracts in English. The studies were randomized controlled trials that compared the outcomes of an asthma self-management intervention with and without the use a written action plan. The primary outcomes of interest are utilization measures, such as hospitalizations and ER visits. Other outcomes of interest include measures of symptom control and lung function. POPULATION: There were 1501 evaluable patients with asthma; 1410 adults and 91 children. OUTCOMES MEASURED: We measured the frequency of waiting and examination room companions, the reasons for accompaniment, the influence on the encounter, and the overall helpfulness of the companion as assessed by patients and companions. We also determined the physician's assessment of the companion's influence, helpfulness, and behavior during the encounter. RESULTS: Nine randomized controlled trials enrolling a total of 1501 patients met selection criteria. The majority of comparisons in these studies do not demonstrate improved outcomes associated with a written action plan. There are notable methodologic limitations: studies reporting negative findings lack sufficient power, and studies reporting positive findings demonstrate systematic bias. CONCLUSIONS: Although written action plans are widely used, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether their use, with or without peak flow Row monitoring, improves outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)842-848
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


  • Asthma
  • Peak flow meter
  • Self-management
  • Written action plan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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