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BMC Health Serv Res. 2008 Jun 12;8:130. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-8-130.

A Danish population-based cohort study of newly diagnosed asthmatic children's care pathway - adherence to guidelines.

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Danish Paediatric Asthma Centre, Aarhus University Hospital, Skejby, Denmark.



Asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood. Large variations exist concerning the number of children being treated by general practitioners and by specialists. Consequently, health related costs due to this disease vary as care by specialists is more expensive compared with care by general practitioners. Little is known of the consequences of these variations concerning the quality of care. The aim of the study was to analyse associations between care providers and adherence to guidelines concerning frequency of contacts with the health service due to asthma.


A cohort study was performed of 36,940 incident asthmatic children's (aged 6-14) contacts with the health service using the unique personal registration number to link data from five national registries. The prevalence ratios were calculated for associations between provider (general practitioner, primary care specialist, hospital specialist or both GP and specialist) and adherence with guidelines concerning three indicators of quality of care pathway: 1) diagnostic examination of lung function at start of medical treatment 2) follow-up the first six months and 3) follow-up the next six months. The associations were adjusted for sex, age, socioeconomic status, county, and severity of disease.


Most children (70.3%) had only been seen by their GP. About 80% of the children were treated with inhaled steroids, 70% were treated with inhaled steroids as well as inhaled beta2agonists and 13% were treated with inhaled beta2agonists only. A total of 12,650 children (34.2%) had no registered asthma-related contacts with the health service except when redeeming prescriptions. Care was in accordance with guidelines in all three indicators of quality in 7% of the cases (GPs only: 3%, primary care specialists only: 16%, hospital specialists: 28%, and both GP and specialists: 13%). Primary care specialists had a 5.01, hospital specialists a 8.81 and both GP and specialists a 4.32 times higher propensity to provide a clinical pathway according to guidelines compared to GPs alone.


The majority of the children were seen in general practice. Hospital specialists provided care in accordance with guidelines nine times more often compared with GPs, but still only one quarter of these children had pathways in accordance with guidelines. It is relevant to study further if these lacks of adherence to guidelines have implications for the asthmatic children or if guidelines are too demanding concerning frequency of follow-up or if asthmatic children should be stratified to different care pathways.

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