Guided asthma self-management or patient self-adjustment? Using patients’ narratives to better understand adherence to asthma treatment


2019:13 587–597

Biagina-Carla Farnesi, Francine M Ducharme, Lucie Blais, Johanne Collin, Kim L Lavoie, Simon L Bacon, Martha L McKinney, Sandra Peláez



Purpose: The purpose of this study was to better understand patients’ perspective of asthma self-management by focusing on the sociocultural and medical context shaping patients’ illness representations and individual decisions.

Patients and methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of semi-structured interviews carried out as part of a multicentered collective qualitative case study. In total, 24 patients, aged 2–76 years with a confirmed diagnosis of asthma (or were parents of a child), who renewed the prescription for inhaled corticosteroids in the past year, participated in this study. The thematic analysis focused on asthma-related events and experiences reported by the patients. Consistent with narrative inquiry, similar patterns were grouped together, and three vignettes representing the different realities experienced by the patients were created.

Results: The comparison of experiences and events reported by the patients suggested that patients’ perceptions and beliefs regarding asthma and treatment goals influenced their self-management-related behaviors. More specifically, the medical context in which the patients were followed (ie, frame in which the medical encounter takes place, medical recommendations provided) contributed to shape their understanding of the disease and the associated treatment goals. In turn, a patient’s perception of the disease and the treatment goals influenced asthma self-management behaviors related to environmental control, lifestyle habits, and medication intake.

Conclusion: Current medical recommendations regarding asthma self-management highlight the importance of the physicians’ guidance through the provision of a detailed written action plan and asthma education. These data suggest that while physicians contribute to shaping patients’ beliefs and perceptions about the disease and treatment goals, patients tend to listen to their own experience and manage the disease accordingly. Thus, a medical encounter between the patient and the physician, aiming at enhancing a meaningful conversation about the disease, may lead the patient to approach the disease in a more effective manner, which goes beyond taking preventative paths to avoid symptoms.