Treatable Traits shared decision-making in severe asthma: a digital decision-making toolkit (Rebecca McLoughlin)

Dr Rebecca McLoughlin


Rebecca McLoughlin

University of Newcastle

Rebecca is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and an Early Career Postdoctoral Researcher with the School of Nursing and Midwifery, College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing at the University of Newcastle. Her research focuses on the development of a personalised-medicine approach for the management of obstructive airway diseases, called Treatable Traits, and the translation and implementation of the Treatable Traits model-of-care into usual practice. A primary research goal of Dr McLoughlin is to conduct high quality patient-centred research that improves patient outcomes and experience and is directly translatable into clinical practice. Her dietetic qualification and clinical research experience position her uniquely to both devise and conduct this style of research.

Project Status: In progress, commenced 2022

Grant Type: Fellowship grant

Asthma Australia is proud to support the careers of our future asthma researchers! This includes Dr Rebecca McLoughlin, who is currently completing a research fellowship funded by Asthma Australia.

Rebecca’s project aims to help people with severe asthma be a part of the decision making in their own healthcare through the development of digital toolkits.

About the research

Rebecca will work with people with severe asthma and healthcare professionals to co-design a toolkit to support shared decision making.

The toolkit will use a Treatable Traits approach, which recognises that not all asthma is the same and the importance of individually assessing patients and managing their treatable problems (or traits).

The toolkit will include specific tools for people with severe asthma and healthcare professionals.

Rebecca and the research team will:

  • Interview people with severe asthma and healthcare professionals to understand what information they need and how they would like to use it.
  • Hold focus groups with people with severe asthma and healthcare professionals to develop person centred language for the different treatable traits.
  • Develop, test and refine the toolkit.

“By empowering patients to play an active role in their care and facilitating shared decision-making which accommodates patients’ goals and treatment priorities, this work has the potential to improve treatment adherence, patients’ experience and satisfaction with their healthcare, and importantly, patient-important outcomes such as quality of life.” – Dr Rebecca McLoughlin

Why was funding this research important?

There have been huge developments in treatments for people with severe asthma. However, people with severe asthma continue to experience the burden from symptoms and suffer serious side-effects of treatments. Experts say part of the problem is that current management strategies treat all people with asthma the same, using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

A severe asthma management approach has been developed called ‘Treatable Traits.’ This recognises that not all asthma is the same. It means people with severe asthma are assessed for different treatable problems or traits to ensure they receive the right treatment. Traits might include other health problems (e.g. obesity), risk factors (e.g. smoking), or self-management skills (e.g. asthma device technique).

Existing research has shown that this approach can improve asthma control and quality of life in people with severe asthma.

However, managing all traits a patient has at the same time might not be practical or feasible. This project aims to address this problem by supporting an individual with a person-centred approach. It will help people with severe asthma and their healthcare professionals to share decision making and prioritise the traits most important to the person with asthma.

“Patient and clinician treatment priorities do not always align, and a key issue identified by people with asthma is that current management approaches lack patient involvement in shared decision-making. We will directly address this by developing a shared decision-making toolkit to support the delivery of the Treatable Traits approach, designed to empower and support people with asthma in making informed decisions about their care, as well as improve patient-clinician communication.”
Dr Rebecca McLoughlin