Quitting Smoking for Good

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Kaiser Permanente Northern California has helped more than 100,000 of its members quit smoking.

At Kaiser Permanente Northern California, helping members to quit smoking is a top priority — and as a result more than 100,00 have given up the habit.

The smoking prevalence rate of the 3.2 million adult Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California is 7.8 percent. That rate is lower than the state of California, which is at 11.8 percent, and falls beneath that of Utah, which has the lowest rate in the United States, at 8.9 percent.

“Kaiser Permanente Northern California has a long history of developing evidence-based programs to help our patients quit smoking,” explained Ali Goldstein, MPH, program director in the organization’s Regional Health Education Department. “Once patients say they’re interested in smoking cessation, they’re offered a variety of ways to help them quit, from classes to online programs, telephonic wellness coaching, and medication.”

“Tobacco cessation has always been part of our DNA — it’s a critical strategy of disease prevention,” added Renee Fogelberg, MD, ob-gyn, Kaiser Permanente Pinole Medical Offices, and clinical lead for tobacco cessation in Northern California. “We know that quitting tobacco improves the quality of life and can add almost a decade to life expectancy.”

Changing 100,000 Lives

Inspiring banners appear in every Kaiser Permanente Northern California Medical Center.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use remains the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths annually. It harms almost every organ in the body, causing cancer, stroke, heart disease, and emphysema, among other diseases.

Inspired to actively work to combat these grim odds, Kaiser Permanente Northern California launched the 50,000 Quitter Campaign in January 2014. It was designed to bring even more energy and increase visibility to helping patients quit tobacco. The program tapped into the organization’s proven, multi-pronged method: screening for tobacco use, advising patients to quit, and connecting them with evidence-based treatment plans that include behavioral strategies and cessation medications.

By the end of 2017, Kaiser Permanente Northern California tallied over 100,000 quitters.

“It’s a major milestone, and a testament to how one can redefine what is possible through an integrated delivery system, powerful workflows, and leadership that drives the work,” said Dr. Fogelberg.

The Power of Support

Wellness coaching has proven key in tobacco cessation efforts across Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

“Without support and a plan, data shows that about 90 percent of people who try to quit relapse within a year,” said Goldstein. “Support like wellness coaching can reduce that by about a third, meaning that many more people who take advantage of coaching are still smoke-free 12 months later.”

Kaiser Permanente members can speak to a wellness coach free of charge, and either by phone, online, or in person — whatever is most convenient. Flexible hours and weekend availability make the coaching option even more accessible.

The sessions focus on creating healthy habits, staying motivated, and coming up with a customized “quit plan” for each member.

‘A Golden Moment’

Physicians and staff at Kaiser Permanente Northern California have also learned to consistently and effectively intervene with their patients who smoke wherever the patient is being seen — from ob-gyn appointments to hospital discharge.

Though patients may have had the conversation before with a clinician about the benefits of quitting tobacco, the pre-surgical opportunity is, “a golden moment,” said Efren Rosas, MD, assistant physician in chief for Kaiser Permanente San Jose and surgeon champion for the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) care pathway. “It’s a very specific time. Quitting smoking directly impacts how they’re going to heal, and patients appreciate having that conversation with us and are open to change.”

“Kaiser Permanente Northern California has an opportunity to define what’s possible in the realm of tobacco cessation,” Dr. Fogelberg added. “Nobody has the performance measures we’re seeing. There are many features unique to our integrated delivery system that position us to be leaders in this work.”

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s smoking cessation efforts.

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