Dr Rebecca McLoughlin 


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, University of Newcastle. Her current area of 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 that 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: Beginning July 2022 

Why was funding this research important?
Despite advances in treatment, people with severe disease continue to die from asthma, have an ongoing burden from asthma attacks and symptoms, and suffer serious side-effects of treatments. It has been suggested that this is because current management strategies tend to treat all patients the same way using a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  

In response to this, our research team has developed a severe asthma management approach, called Treatable Traits, which recognizes that not all asthma is the same. This is a personalized medicine strategy that involves individually assessing patients for a specified set of treatable problems (traits), which can include other health problems (e.g., obesity), risk-factors (e.g., smoking) and self-management skills (e.g., asthma-inhaler technique), to ensure individuals receive the right treatments. This reduces the delivery and potential side-effects from ineffective treatments and minimises cost. We have shown that this approach improves quality of life and asthma control in severe asthma. 

Managing all identified traits concurrently is not necessarily practical or feasible. An individualised approach using shared decision-making is a patient-centred strategy that may facilitate priority setting in this model-of-care. 

“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

What are the researchers doing?  

We will work with people with severe asthma and their physicians (end-users) to co-design a 

Treatable Traits Shared Decision Making and priority-setting toolkit.  This will consist of a digital patient decision aid, a digital clinician decision aid , as well as a strategy to support the use of these aids in clinical practice.  

To achieve this, we will:  

  1. Conduct interviews with end-users to determine what information should be included in the decision aids and ways to increase usability. 
  2. Conduct focus groups with end-users to develop person-centered, nonmedical terms for each Treatable Trait so they are easier for people with asthma to understand and communicate with their physicians about.  
  3. Develop the toolkit based the findings of steps 1 and 2, guidelines for developing patient decision aids, and relevant clinical practice guidelines. 
  4. Test and refine the decision tools, incorporating feedback from end-users.

“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