If you have been diagnosed with bronchiectasis, you have likely heard your healthcare team mention a treatment and management plan, or an ‘action plan’, although you may be left asking ‘what exactly is an action plan?’.
As the term suggests, a Bronchiectasis Action Plan is a carefully crafted treatment and management plan, developed with your healthcare team, that helps you understand your baseline and supports you to monitor the early signs and symptoms of a flare-up, which is also known as an exacerbation.
Your Bronchiectasis Action Plan is a powerful tool in your journey to defining clear actions to take when you notice your symptoms changing, and in turn, decrease the impact bronchiectasis can have on your quality of life.
I didn’t have any management of it except for reacting when I had a flare-up. Now I have up to date tests, a physio and a lung specialist!– Sally, lives with bronchiectasis
How to develop a treatment and management plan
Getting started with your very own Bronchiectasis Action Plan, is all about using knowledge as power in the event you experience a worsening of your symptoms!
Designed in consultation with a range of experts , along with people living with the condition themselves, the Bronchiectasis Action Plan is a two-page document to help you if there are any changes in your symptoms to identify the start or onset of a flare-up.
The plan starts with you working with your health professional to familiarise yourself with your baseline health, so you can begin to work towards maintaining your overall wellbeing for longer periods of time. Baseline questions provide insight on your usual levels of sleep, shortness of breath, the colour of your phlegm, airway clearance techniques, and medications that help control your symptoms.
The Bronchiectasis Action Plan works on a traffic light system:
- Green represents when you are feeling your usual self and outlines the medications and actions to take, like airway clearance, to help keep your bronchiectasis symptoms as well managed as possible and reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- The amber section indicates the changes in your symptoms to watch out for and the steps to take to help to manage them. Your healthcare team will prescribe the appropriate management for you.
- The red section indicates that you should stop and take immediate action if you have had a significant worsening of your symptoms. This may be to contact your healthcare team for an urgent appointment or if you are very short of breath, have a fever or feel confused, then you should call 000.
Respiratory specialist and Lung Foundation Australia Board member, Associate Professor Lucy Morgan says whilst a Bronchiectasis Action Plan may feel like an information-overload at times, it’s important to capture a full spectrum of information about your treatment and management plan,
“By capturing all of these details and insights, your Bronchiectasis Action Plan can ensure you and your clinician can facilitate the best mitigation techniques, treatment plan and lifestyle changes needed for your specific condition and all its unique aspects,” A/Prof Morgan explains.
“Whether it’s your GP, lung specialist, physiotherapist or any other clinician that might be a part of your multidisciplinary care team, your Bronchiectasis Action Plan provides a single point of truth to aid you in appointments and check ins – ensuring you won’t need to go over the basic details each and every time.”
How will a Bronchiectasis Action Plan help me treat and manage a flare-up?
By outlining the key actions to take to manage your bronchiectasis – from when you are feeling stable, or mildly unstable, all the way through to when you are really unwell – a Bronchiectasis Action Plan will help better prepare you for avoiding a flare-up.
The plan can help you and your clinician point out what factors differ along the way that may be contributing to your flare-up. In some cases, this could be lifestyle factors, like a certain food or activities, environmental factors, or even changes in your physical and mental wellbeing that you may not actively be aware of.
“Taking this information across all the phases of a patient’s condition, we partner the plan with what we call a Bronchiectasis Checklist which uses these insights to provide recommendations on how we can make small changes to mitigate future flare-ups,” A/Prof Morgan says.
To support you in times of flare-up, your Bronchiectasis Action Plan will also include simple reminders on helpful airway clearance techniques, advice on medication, and useful information on the different types of actions your loved ones can take to support you should a flare-up reach the emergency stage.
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Download a Bronchiectasis Action Plan
When completed with a health professional, the Bronchiectasis Action plan helps you recognise early symptoms of a flare-up (exacerbation) and outlines the actions you should take to help manage it. This resource also helps your family members know what actions you need to take in an emergency.