PCPs aided with allergy, asthma care

A new organization launched late last month serves primary care physicians who provide testing and treatment access to patients who suffer from seasonal/ perennial allergies and asthma. The Washington, D.C.-based Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care (AAAPC) seeks to help physicians deliver high-quality, patient-accessible diagnostic and therapeutic allergy and asthma care. The group will also work to raise awareness of the link between allergy care and asthma prevention – particularly in pediatric and family practice populations.

With recurrent allergen exposure, pediatric and adult individuals with allergic rhinitis can develop allergic asthma, the group noted. Twenty-six million Americans have asthma and approximately 60 percent have allergic asthma. In such cases, asthmatic complications are triggered by allergen exposure.

AAAPC also pointed out that asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood. It is the primary reason children miss school and the leading cause of childhood hospitalization.

The group said allergen immunotherapy has been shown to significantly decrease the development of allergic asthma and new allergies in pediatric and adult patients with allergic rhinitis.

“Primary care physicians have always treated their patients for seasonal and perennial allergies, but few have had access to actually test their patients,” said Margaret Binzer, AAAPC executive director, in a statement announcing the group's formation. “We will raise awareness for primary care physicians and support their vital role in allergy and asthma diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.”

AAAPC's activities will be focused in the following areas

  • Promoting a culture of quality improvement and developing protocols and guidelines for clinical practice.
  • Serving as a resource for allergy testing, immunotherapy and asthma research.
  • Supporting a certification program for products and services related to allergy and asthma care.
  • Facilitating dialogue with payers to maintain an appropriate focus on allergy diagnostic and allergy therapeutic services.

Until now, according to AAAPC, "the only real relief for allergies has remained primarily in the hands of allergists who administer immunotherapy. This already small community of less than 2,800 U.S. specialists is expected to decline by 6.8 percent by 2020, while demand for allergy-related services is projected to increase by 35 percent by the same year."

The group referenced statistics from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services stating that only 50 percent of patients receiving immunotherapy receive treatment from an allergist, due to the lack of supply. ENT and primary care physicians treat the remaining 50 percent. In addition, the group said, allergists primarily work in large metropolitan areas, leaving suburban and rural patients without access to care.

“The AAAPC wants to create more access for patients by helping primary and family care physicians test and treat their patients’ allergies safely and effectively,” said Frederick M. Schaffer, MD, chair of the AAAPC Medical Advisory Board, in a prepared statement. “Primary care physicians are the medical home for patients, and allergy sufferers want to receive the most efficient and highest standard of care from their family doctor. Patients who suffer from seasonal and perennial allergies want to be treated close to home by the family doctor they have come to know and trust,” he continued.

In a telephone interview with PhysBizTech, Schaffer added that, aside from delivering the proper clinical care to patients, physicians will benefit from a business perspective by being able to provide testing and treatment for allergies and asthma. "I can tell you from my own personal experience as a board-certified allergist that the augmentation of income from being able to provide these services can be substantial," he said.

"Right now the common practice is to give a patient an antihistamine or an albuterol inhaler…and if that doesn't work, switch to another type of antihistamine or inhaler," he continued. Having the ability to provide the appropriate testing and therapy will make patients more compliant, he explained.

"And a patient who is happy with the result of a diagnostic and therapeutic workup will tell others through word-of-mouth and drive additional patients to the practice," Schaffer added. "It's a beneficial domino effect."

You can learn more about the AAAPC by clicking here.