A physician referring a patient to smoking cessation services more than doubles the chances that the patient will seek help. But results are much better when a physician electronically refers a patient.
Thats an early lesson from a program in Texas that encourages physicians to use the CollaborNet health information exchange software of Holon Solutions to send an electronic referral to the state-funded Texas Tobacco Quitline program. Quitline offers consumers who call on their own to receive at no charge five counseling sessions. However, a patient referred by a physician to Quitline gets the five sessions and two weeks of nicotine replacement therapy, says Shelly Summers-Karn, director of the Texas Tobacco Education, Cessation and Community Coalition program at the University of Texas at Austin.
In a pilot program a couple years ago with 27 clinics referring patients via an electronic health records system, more than 1,200 referrals were made compared with just seven the previous year, Summers-Karn notes.
Now, in a program that started at the end of July, two rural hospitals--Wilbarger General Hospital in Vernon and Clay County Memorial Hospital in Henrietta--are testing electronic referrals with HIE vendor Holon. Testing in these hospitals is important because rural areas have higher percentages of tobacco users and fewer resources available to them, says Summers-Karn. When patients are referred electronically, staff at Quitline calls the patients and offer to enroll them in a cessation program.
In the earlier pilot program and now, a core lesson has been simply the need to educate physicians about the Quitline service and that electronic referrals can be made, Summers-Karn says. Although Quitline has been around since 2001, many clinicians still are not aware of it.
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