Effectiveness of Interventions to Teach Metered-Dose and Diskus Inhaler Techniques: A Randomized Trial

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The most effective approach to teaching respiratory inhaler technique is unknown.


To evaluate the relative effects of two different educational strategies (teach-to-goal instruction vs. brief verbal instruction) in adults hospitalized with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


We conducted a randomized clinical trial at two urban academic hospitals. Participants received teach-to-goal or brief instruction in the hospital and were followed for 90 days after discharge. Inhaler technique was assessed using standardized checklists; misuse was defined as 75% steps or less correct (≤9 of 12 steps). The primary outcome was metered-dose inhaler misuse 30 days postdischarge. Secondary outcomes included Diskus technique; acute care events at 30 and 90 days; and associations with adherence, health literacy, site, and patient risk (near-fatal event).

Measurements and Main Results:

Of 120 participants, 73% were female and 90% were African American. Before education, metered-dose inhaler misuse was similarly common in the teach-to-goal and brief intervention groups (92% vs. 84%, respectively; P = 0.2). Metered-dose inhaler misuse was not significantly less common in the teach-to-goal group than in the brief instruction group at 30 days (54% vs. 70%, respectively; P = 0.11), but it was immediately after education (11% vs. 60%, respectively; P < 0.001) and at 90 days (48% vs. 76%, respectively; P = 0.003). Similar results were found with the Diskus device. Participants did not differ across education groups with regard to rescue metered-dose inhaler use or Diskus device adherence at 30 or 90 days. Acute care events were less common among teach-to-goal participants than brief intervention participants at 30 days (17% vs. 36%, respectively; P = 0.02), but not at 90 days (34% vs. 38%, respectively; P = 0.6). Participants with low health literacy receiving teach-to-goal instruction were less likely than brief instruction participants to report acute care events within 30 days (15% vs. 70%, respectively; P = 0.008). No differences existed by site or patient risk at 30 or 90 days (P > 0.05).


In adults hospitalized with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in-hospital teach-to-goal instruction in inhaler technique did not reduce inhaler misuse at 30 days, but it was associated with fewer acute care events within 30 days after discharge. Inpatient treatment-to-goal education may be an important first step toward improving self-management and health outcomes for hospitalized patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, especially among patients with lower levels of health literacy.


Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01426581).

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