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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Automated Tobacco Cessation Intervention for Emergency Department Discharged Patients


Introduction: Nearly 14% of US adults currently smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. Emergency department (ED) patients are frequently asked for their use of tobacco. Manual selection of pre-formed discharge instructions is the norm for most ED. Providing tobacco cessation discharge instructions to ED patients presents another avenue to combat the tobacco use epidemic we face. The objective of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an automated discharge instruction system in increasing the frequency of discharging current tobacco users with instructions for tobacco cessation.

Methods: The study was done at an urban academic tertiary care center. A before and after study was used to test the hypothesis that use of an automated discharged instruction system would increase the frequency that patients who use tobacco were discharged with tobacco cessation instructions. Patients that were admitted, left against medical advice, eloped or left without being seen were excluded. The before phase was from 09/21/14-10/21/14 and the after phase was from the same dates one year later, 09/21/15-10/21/15. This was done to account for confounding by time of year, ED volume and other factors. A Fisher’s Exact Test was calculated to compare these two groups.

Results: Tobacco cessation DC instructions were received 2/486 (0.4%) of tobacco users in the pre-implementation period compared to 357/371 (96%) in the post-implementation period (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: The automated discharge instructions system increases the proportion of tobacco users who receive cessation instructions. Given the public health ramifications of tobacco use, this could prove to be a significant piece in decreasing tobacco use in patients who go to the emergency department.

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