New Tobacco Cessation Protocol Could Save Texas Millions of Dollars

The University of Texas at Austin has partnered with Baylor Scott and White Health and the Department of State Health Services to launch the first of multiple trainings that introduce physicians to eTobacco, a newly designed tobacco cessation protocol that connects a patient's electronic medical records with a state-funded tobacco cessation program called Quitline.

Dr. Shelley Karn, a certified health care reform specialist in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at UT Austin, says the trainings are "the first of their kind" and expects approximately 30 physicians to attend today's kickoff instruction session hosted by Temple Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas.

According to the eTobacco protocol, when a trained physician encounters a patient who qualifies for help with tobacco cessation, the doctor can easily make a referral within the patient's electronic medical records, which results in automatic referral to the Quitline program. Eligible patients are then proactively contacted, counseled and provided with free nicotine replacement therapy. At the end of the program, feedback and progress are reported through the medical records and shared with the prescribing physician.

"This initiative will have a huge impact on the No. 1 preventable risk factor for all chronic diseases tobacco use and stands to net the state over $271 million in health care cost reductions and workforce productivity increases," explains Michael Davis, project lead and director of the Cancer Institute at Baylor Scott and White Health. His estimate reflects eventual implementation across central and north Texas, when the program will be available to all Baylor Scott and White Health patients.

Through the eTobacco protocol, adults interested in or struggling with tobacco addiction will find coordinated support and reap the benefits of free and proven interventions, says Karn.

"The University of Texas is working to establish these connections throughout clinic systems in Texas," says Karn. "This presentation is the first, but we hope to do similar trainings to integrate the eTobacco protocol and other Quitline referral resources throughout the state."