Most Family Physicians Feel Comfortable With Allergy Immunotherapy

courtesy of flickr user MMMMichelle (creative commons)

How well do primary care doctors handle allergy patients? To find out, Dr. Michael Lunn of Penn State University Hershey Medical Center and colleagues surveyed 14 primary care practices currently administering allergy immunotherapy. They presented their findings in a poster at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in San Francisco.

Most (71%) of the survey respondents were family practices, and either a nurse or physician in each practice responded to the survey. A total of 4 of the 14 practices (28%) gave both venom and aeroallergen vaccines.

Overall, 13 of the 14 practices said they felt comfortable giving allergy immunotherapy and 86% said they were well-equipped to handle adverse reactions with treatments including epinephrine, oxygen, antihistamines, and intravenous lines.

However, only 50% of the offices surveyed said they had a system in place to identify asthma patients in their practices who were receiving allergy immunotherapy. None reported checking peak flows before giving allergy immunotherapy, and only five practices (36%) reported watching patients for at least 30 minutes after an allergy immunotherapy injection.

Based on these findings, a majority of primary care doctors feel comfortable treating allergy patients with immunotherapy, the researchers wrote. But the survey results also suggest that “education is needed regarding both the duration of time a patient must stay after an injection and protocols for giving AIT to asthmatic patients,” they noted.

The researchers did not comment on exactly how to better educate primary care physicians about proper protocol for allergy immunotherapy. But they emphasized the importance of “a safe environment for patients receiving immunotherapy away from the allergist’s office.”

If primary care physicians start seeing more patients, including more allergy patients, in the wake of health care reform, will this safe environment be harder to maintain?

–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)

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Filed under Allergy and Immunology, Family Medicine, health reform, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Practice Trends

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