Implementing a Fax Referral Program for Quitline Smoking Cessation Services in Urban Health Centers: A Qualitative Study

Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care, School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York University, New York, NY, USA.
BMC Family Practice (Impact Factor: 1.67). 12/2009; 10(1):81. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2296-10-81
Source: PubMed


Fax referral services that connect smokers to state quitlines have been implemented in 49 U.S. states and territories and promoted as a simple solution to improving smoker assistance in medical practice. This study is an in-depth examination of the systems-level changes needed to implement and sustain a fax referral program in primary care.
The study involved implementation of a fax referral system paired with a chart stamp prompting providers to identify smoking patients, provide advice to quit and refer interested smokers to a state-based fax quitline. Three focus groups (n = 26) and eight key informant interviews were conducted with staff and physicians at two clinics after the intervention. We used the Chronic Care Model as a framework to analyze the data, examining how well the systems changes were implemented and the impact of these changes on care processes, and to develop recommendations for improvement.
Physicians and staff described numerous benefits of the fax referral program for providers and patients but pointed out significant barriers to full implementation, including the time-consuming process of referring patients to the Quitline, substantial patient resistance, and limitations in information and care delivery systems for referring and tracking smokers. Respondents identified several strategies for improving integration, including simplification of the referral form, enhanced teamwork, formal assignment of responsibility for referrals, ongoing staff training and patient education. Improvements in Quitline feedback were needed to compensate for clinics' limited internal information systems for tracking smokers.
Establishing sustainable linkages to quitline services in clinical sites requires knowledge of existing patterns of care and tailored organizational changes to ensure new systems are prioritized, easily integrated into current office routines, formally assigned to specific staff members, and supported by internal systems that ensure adequate tracking and follow up of smokers. Ongoing staff training and patient self-management techniques are also needed to ease the introduction of new programs and increase their acceptability to smokers.

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    • "Simply knowing about the program may not be enough to promote consistent and sustainable referrals. Post intervention qualitative interviews with physicians and staff, the results of which are reported in another publication, support this premise [20]. Health care providers and staff in intervention sites described numerous benefits of the chart stamp and Fax-to-Quit systems but pointed out that those new systems, even ones that will ultimately simplify care processes, can initially interrupt workflow and must overcome organizational barriers to ensure full integration and sustainability [20]. "
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