A study by the Minneapolis-based HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research shows that use of a computer-assisted tobacco intervention (CATI) tool can dramatically increase patient referral to intervention resources.

The tool itself is embedded in the patient’s electronic dental record (EDR), and requires the dental provider to assess four health behavior variables for any patient who reports that they use tobacco. These variables include the number of cigarettes smoked daily, how soon on waking the first cigarette was smoked, the patient’s interest in quitting, and the number of previous quit attempts. Based on the answers, the EDR automatically calculates a dependency score and produces a script for the provider to communicate to the patient, with the goal of referring him or her to a tobacco quit line.

Results showed that over the course of the five-month randomized trial, 37 percent of smokers surveyed from the seven HealthPartners Dental Clinics that were using the CATI tool had been referred to a quit line, whereas only 17 percent were referred across the eight locations not equipped with this technology.

Based on these results, the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research and the Center for Informatics in Oral Health Translational Research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine have received a $250,000 planning grant from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research.

With the grant, co-principal investigator Brad Rindal, D.D.S., said he and his colleagues plan to expand CATI to more HealthPartners Dental Plan locations, multiple dental schools, and more community practices throughout the U.S. by 2020.

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