A recent pilot study found that telemedicine is effective at helping patients reduce or give up smoking. Dubbed “tele-nicotine”, the initiative at UT Southwestern’s Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center focused on smokers in a homeless shelter. Over the course of the program, one quarter of the participants reported that they had stopped smoking entirely, and another 25 percent significantly reduced their nicotine usage.
The four-week course, designed by the American Cancer Society, paired clinicians with male shelter residents for one-hour counseling meetings once a week. The men wanted to quit smoking in order to become permanent residents of the shelter. The clinicians added to this motivation through motivational interviewing, education and reminding the men of the money they would save when they stop using nicotine products.
These results look promising, but the authors acknowledged the limitations of the study: It covered a short time period, and it did not track long-term patient outcomes. In addition, follow-up was difficult since they did not know where the participants would be living after the counseling sessions ended. For their next step, the authors hope to expand the program into an eight-week course devised by the American Lung Association with someone at each facility who can check in with patients between their meetings.
Although there were initial concerns about whether telemedicine would allow clinicians to form rapport with patients and to evaluate patients by seeing their nonverbal cues, the study results of 50 percent success suggest that these concerns can be overcome.
To read more on the study, visit Cure Magazine here.