Penn Medicine Launches Smoking Cessation Program

Physicians at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia are ready to launch their new treatment program designed to help patients with cancer to quit smoking. The program is intended to provide patients with “state-of-the-science” tobacco use treatment, while also assisting patients with their medical treatment and recovery.
BY Kristie L. Kahl
PUBLISHED November 20, 2017
Physicians at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia are ready to launch their new treatment program designed to help patients with cancer to quit smoking. The program is intended to provide patients with “state-of-the-science” tobacco use treatment, while also assisting patients with their medical treatment and recovery.

“The goal of this particular initiative is to improve the quality of medical care that cancer patients receive at comprehensive cancer centers across the United States, and in particular, to ensure that when they are being assessed for their medical needs, clinicians also include addressing tobacco use,” co-leader of the project Robert A. Schnoll, Ph.D., said in an interview with CURE.

The program – which will utilize Penn Medicine’s electronic health record system to create a mandatory assessment and referral system – will alert physicians of a patient’s tobacco use. Once they have received the alert, the physician will screen the patient for available smoking cessation clinical trials or for a smoking cessation program.

An automated referral is then made to the patient to join Penn Medicine’s Tobacco Use Treatment Service. If the patient is interested, certified tobacco treatment specialists will then provide behavioral counseling and recommend medications, ultimately providing the patient with an individualized treatment plan.

“The two real goals are to ensure that quality of care is there, that every cancer patient who smokes and wants treatment is identified, and provided with respective care,” said Schnoll, who is also a co-leader of Penn’s Tobacco and Environmental Carcinogenesis Program.

In addition, the program will include a referral to the free PA Quitline cessation service; navigation to find medication; and hands-on, individualized in-person or phone smoking cessation counseling.

Although only initiated in the radiation oncology department, Schnoll hopes after finding success within the program, Penn Medicine can introduce it into the medical and surgical oncology departments.

“We wanted to start with a limited roll out because of the fairly substantial changes we are making to the clinical service,” said Schnoll. “We want to make sure we are approaching that change in a way that is thoughtful and doesn’t adversely affect the clinical workflow.”

Now that the program has launched, Schnoll and colleagues will monitor its implementation and track metrics to determine the number of patients properly assessed to the program, as well as the rate of utilization among patients.

“Once we are satisfied that we have developed and implemented a strategy that is working, we can consider moving this out to other medical practices across our health system,” he added.

Following initial support from the CVS Health Foundation, which awarded Penn Medicine with a $100,000 grant, The National Cancer Institute awarded the institution with a $500,000 grant as part of its Cancer Centers Cessation Initiative – also known as C31 – and as part of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

“We are very excited that NCI, as part of the Moonshot Initiative, has recognized an issue that we have thought was important for close to 20 years,” Schnoll said. “We are mostly excited that NCI is seeing this as a national priority and has leveraged the influence of the Moonshot Initiative to vie some very strong financial support across all of the cancer centers and to really launch a national campaign to address this issue.”
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