Healthcare News & Insights

Why your hospital may want to create a smoking cessation program

Hospitals may soon be the next partners in helping patients to stop smoking – if the results of a recent study are any indication.

470549331There are several reasons why it would benefit hospitals to create their own smoking cessation programs for patients. For one thing, smokers have a higher chance of being readmitted for health problems than other patients – and curbing readmissions is important.

And as healthcare payors are basing their payments to hospitals on patient outcomes and care coordination, it’s even more in a hospital’s financial interest to work closely with other providers to get patients to kick the habit.

In fact, the Joint Commission lists tobacco cessation as one of its hospital quality measures, and meeting these measures will become more important to hospital reimbursement down the line.

Program lowers smoking rates

Hospital smoking cessation programs can be very helpful in getting patients to quit, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

At Massachusetts General Hospital, 400 patients who smoked were asked if they wanted to quit. Out of those who agreed, half of them were enrolled in Helping HAND (Hospital-initiated Assistance for Nicotine Dependence), a smoking cessation program run by the hospital. The others were discharged with no interventions.

Patients selected for the program were given a free 30-day supply of medication to help them quit smoking. They could choose from multiple drugs, including nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. And they could refill their prescription twice after being discharged.

Once they were discharged, participating smokers received automated phone calls that encouraged them to quit and screened them for additional telephone counseling to help them battle their smoking addition. Phone calls also reminded them to refill their medications.

The hospital followed up with all the patients who said they wanted to quit after six months. While 15% of those who weren’t in the program stopped smoking, 26% of participants in the program did. And even the patients who didn’t entirely quit reported lower tobacco usage.

Results were similar among a “broad range of smokers” with a variety of smoking habits, researchers said, suggesting that the program could help even the most addicted smokers to stop.

Hospital’s role

Because smokers are forbidden from lighting up while they’re hospitalized, it’s the perfect time to start encouraging them to quit for good. Statistics cited in the study state that nearly 4 million smokers are hospitalized each year, and smoking often causes their illness – or makes their condition worse.

It doesn’t cost much to give smokers info about how they can kick the habit once they leave the hospital, but it has far-reaching positive results in terms of their recovery post discharge. And taking the extra effort to put a full-scale smoking cessation program in place could be even more beneficial for your hospital, so it may be worth looking into.

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