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opt-out, emergency department, motivational interviewing, referral and consultation, screening, treatment initiation, referral, smoking cessation agents, smoking cessation

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Objective: Using a physician-directed, patient “opt-out” approach to prescriptive smoking cessation in the emergency department (ED) setting, we set out to describe patient actions as they related to smoking cessation behaviors.

Methods: A convenience sample of smokers at 2 Pennsylvania hospital EDs who met inclusion/exclusion criteria were approached to participate in a brief intervention known as screening, treatment initiation, and referral (STIR) counseling that included phone follow-up. Demographic information, current smoking status, and specific physician prescription and follow-up recommendations were collected. Approximately 3 months later, patients were contacted to determine current smoking status and actions taken since their ED visit.

Results: One hundred six patients were approached and 7 (6.6%) opted out of the intervention. Patients who did not opt out were evaluated for appropriate use of smoking cessation-related medications; 35 (35.4%) opted out of the prescription(s) and 6 (6.1%) were not indicated. Twenty-one (21.2%) patients opted out of ambulatory referral follow-ups with primary care and/or tobacco treatment program; one (1.0%) was not indicated for referral. Nineteen (32.8%) patients who received prescription(s) for smoking cessation-related medications initially also followed the prescription(s). Seventeen (22.1%) patients participated in referral follow-up.

Conclusion: In this small ED pilot, using the STIR concepts in an opt-out method, few smokers opted out of the smoking cessation intervention. About one-third of the patients declined prescriptions for smoking cessation-related medications and less than one-quarter declined ambulatory referrals for follow-up. These findings support a willingness of patients to participate in STIR and the benefits of intervention in this setting.

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Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open, v. 1, issue 5, p. 782-789