In this series, we look at ways urgent care centers can promote wellness for patients—help them keep those resolutions— in the New Year.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. More than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most urgent care centers do not offer formal smoking cessation programs, there are plenty of ways clinicians can offer advice and support to patients looking to quit. And many clinics include information on their websites about how and why patients should quit smoking.
On ASAP Urgent Care does offer patient consultation with a medical expert. The Connecticut-based clinics’ website offers the following patient advice: “Right now is a great time to quit smoking. Why? In as little as 20 minutes you’ll start to feel the benefits of not smoking.”
“Our providers have years of experience with this type of counseling and will get a history of smoking, attempts at quitting, both successful and unsuccessful and try to come up with a reasonable plan.”
Here are some reasons why smoking cessation should be a top New Year’s resolution for patients in 2016:
- Cigarettes are responsible for one in every five deaths in the U.S. each year.
- More than $193 billion spent annually in health care costs and lost productivity.
- Smokers miss an average of 6.16 days of work each year due to sickness, compared with 3.86 days for non-smokers.
There are diverse physical, psychological, genetic and social factors involved as smoking habits form and continue. So it’s not surprising that the most personalized tobacco cessation programs are the most successful. These program offer a high level of interaction with wellness coaches, combined with nicotine replacement therapy, according to an OptumHealth study.
If an urgent care center looks to implement a cessation program, it should include coaches to maintain close contact with the patients trying to quit smoking. That intimacy helps build trust and drive results. The coach identifies opportunities for reducing the number of cigarettes smoked and establishes short- and long-term goals against which the smoker is held accountable.
There is strong evidence that even brief smoking cessation counseling, taking less than 3 minutes, is effective in improving quit rates among adult patients. Since smoking cessation advice has greatest impact when tailored to the individual, here are a few tactics for addressing the habit with patients.
- For smokers presenting with a cold or flu, emphasize the fact that their tobacco habit increases the risk of developing respiratory infections.
- The welfare of others can be a powerful motivator for quitting, too. Explain the dangers associated with secondhand smoke, or highlight the fact that smoking could be contributing to a child’s recent ear infection or asthma attack.
- Urgent care visits are typically less costly than equivalent visits to the ER and many urgent care patients do not have regular access to a primary care. For patients weighing cost as a significant factor, discuss the financial implications of smoking-related illnesses, alongside the immediate savings to be made by giving up smoking.
For smokers willing to make a quit attempt, offer appropriate support in the form of medication, counseling and/or referral for additional treatment. A combination of counseling and pharmacologic support is more effective than either approach used along.
Since relapse is the most common within the first or second weeks, arrange for follow-up contact with the patient within one week and one month. Provide encouragement and discuss any problems encountered.