Southeast Minnesota Beacon Develops Asthma Management Toolkit for Schools

Lacey A. Hart | January 27, 2012

When a child suffers an asthma attack at school, getting the right care at the right time is critical. To respond effectively, school employees need more than quick thinking and general training—they need sound policies and specific action plans that address the needs of individual students.The Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community Program, which promotes health information exchange in its 11-county service area, has launched a school asthma management program. The goal is to help schools work with parents and health care providers to create a “cocoon of care” for students who have chronic asthma.

An Asthma Management Toolkit for Schools

The first stage of the program is a web-based asthma management toolkit that offers multiple resources and templates for school administrators, nurses, teachers, and other staff, including:

  • A written action plan for every student with asthma, including the student’s medical information, daily management guidelines, and specific steps for responding to worsening asthma symptoms
  • Written policies and processes for parental consent
  • Specific actions staff members can perform as part of an asthma management program
  • School policies and procedures for administering medications, including protocols for emergency response to a severe asthma episode
  • Education for staff and students about asthma
  • Communication templates

The asthma management toolkit is now available to 48 school districts in southeastern Minnesota, where an estimated 12 percent of the area’s 14,000 students have chronic asthma. Schools are already using toolkit resources to adopt parental consent policies and establish individual treatment protocols for affected students.

“This asthma management toolkit will help districts promote school environments where children with asthma can feel safe, be healthy, and remain active,” says Barbara Yawn, M.D., a Beacon co-investigator and pioneer of the Community Collaborative Asthma Project in Olmsted County. “We are very pleased that Beacon gives us the opportunity to develop reliable ways to share asthma-related information between physicians, parents, school nursing and other staff. It is so important that schools and parents have up-to-date and accurate information immediately available to deal with changes in symptoms or asthma attacks.”

Linking Schools with Parents and Providers

Stage two of the program will incorporate technologies that improve access to students’ medical information, efficiency in emergency response, confidential student tracking, and direct lines of communication with health professionals.

Participating schools will benefit from an electronic portal that stores care plans for individual students (with appropriate consent) and enables electronic incident reporting as well as direct communication with parents and providers.

Here is how the system will work when a student has an asthma attack at school:

  • The school nurse has immediate access to the latest asthma action plan from the student’s health care provider. The nurse provides treatment per the plan.
  • The nurse electronically logs an incident report of the visit and unplanned intervention and communicates with the parent and the provider.
  • If the student visits the nurse’s office following the initial incident, the student’s physician and parents receive an electronic message notifying them of the visit, as well as a request to review and/or update the student’s asthma action plan.



Safeguarding Information

Safeguarding sensitive information is a lynchpin of the program’s design. All exchanges of information about a student will take place with previous consent.

“No one’s health information should be put at risk. That’s why we are developing safeguards and protections to improve security even further,” says Christopher Chute, M.D., Dr. P.H., Mayo Clinic informatics investigator. “All health care information involved in the network is used only with the informed and signed consent of the patient or their parents.”

Right Care at the Right Time

By connecting parents and health care providers, and linking them with technologies to improve care for students, the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community is helping enable schools across the state ensure that students who have an asthma attack at school get the right care at the right time.

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