How the CDC’s free smoking cessation resources improved quit rates at our clinic

The graphic images and stories created opportunities to more seamlessly counsel patients, and better track outcomes.

This past year, I participated in an initiative developed in partnership between the American Osteopathic Association and the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers (Tips®) campaign. The initiative promoted quitting smoking by leveraging the Tips campaign through a variety of activities including promoting and posting cessation materials in our clinic and committing to ongoing conversations around smoking cessation with patients over a 10-week period. Given COVID-19 numbers were climbing in our already busy Raleigh-based practice, I had concerns about adding to our workload. However, CDC has a wide range of smoking cessation resources available that are already tailored to diverse patient groups. Not only was building these tools into our practice seamless, but I am also pleased to share that the outcomes were well worth the additional effort from our team. As a result, we have continued the initiative long after the designated period.

The CDC/AOA initiative led to many positive changes in our practice.

Many aspects of our practice already involve working with patients to improve overall health and smoking cessation has become a key element of that. Taking part in this program helped us to ensure that smoking was addressed with all of our patients, both to see if they had nicotine dependence, but also as an avenue to discuss smoking cessation treatments. As we tracked our progress over the 10-week project period, we noted that the program increased the conversations we had in the office with patients. By making smoking cessation part of our care team process, the staff knew this was a priority for our practice. They were trained to ask patients about smoking status at each intake and it became a part of our standard pre-work.

If patients are flagged, as providers we are now cued to have the discussion.

We created shortcuts in our electronic medical records systems to allow us to address smoking in a timely fashion. This was very helpful to ensure that staff and providers were consistent with their efforts to identify and manage patients for smoking cessation treatment. This process change helps ensure that we are capturing every patient in need of cessation counseling and support, and that we can offer it.

As a result of the positive outcomes from the program, we have made smoking cessation counseling a part of our practice incentive plan quality metrics to ensure that the discussions will continue.

There are many smoking cessation resources available, but I found the Tips materials to be impactful to our patients and helped with our patient engagement.

The flyers—which graphically profiles real people living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure—were very impactful and caught the patients’ attention. I also appreciated that the posters were provided in both English and Spanish, which helped us communicate more effectively to our diverse patient population.

The reality is both patients and physicians know smoking is bad for health, but these materials helped ensure that patients received the smoking cessation counseling that is often overlooked. Cessation is just as important to a patient’s overall health goals as the other health metrics (BMI, etc.) that we regularly track but is not always addressed. Because of this program, that has changed. Smoking cessation treatment has been effectively integrated into our quality metrics so that we can continue to make primary prevention through tobacco cessation a clinical priority.