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Rationale: Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that is very common (7.9% of
Canadians over the age of 12). Despite numerous clinical guidelines, education events and administrative
data reviews, there has been little change to the way asthma is managed in the Canadian health care
system for nearly 30 years. We evaluated, through the Physician Learning Program (PLP) in Alberta,
possible reasons why administrative datasets have not been able to provide meaningful information to
adjust health policy.
Methods: Provincial data was attained through Alberta Health Service and Alberta Health on pulmonary
function testing from 2005-2011 (through the PLP). The number of asthma diagnosis made during the same
time frame were then compared.
Results: The preliminary results of the PLP found that spirometry was billed for roughly half as often as
the asthma diagnostic codes were utilized during the same time frame. However, the review also revealed
inconsistencies in how administrative data are captured, making it difficult to determine whether
spirometry is being underutilized by physicians in making asthma diagnoses.
Conclusions: Inconsistencies in how administrative data are captured in Alberta may be contributing
to an incomplete picture of the rates of asthma diagnosis and physiological testing, and may explain, in
part, the limited influence of administrative datasets on guiding meaningful change within the healthcare
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