Study: Smartphones and tablets key to getting more clinicians to screen patients for tobacco use

NEW YORK — Smartphones and tablets may hold the key to getting more clinicians to screen patients for tobacco use and advise smokers on how to quit. Using mobile phones loaded with tobacco screening guidelines prompted nurses to ask patients about their smoking habits in 84% of clinic visits and to offer cessation counseling to 99% of smokers who expressed a willingness to kick the habit, according to a study from Columbia University School of Nursing published in Oncology Nursing Forum.

“These findings suggest that mobile applications can play a significant role in curbing tobacco use,” stated lead study author Kenrick Cato, associate research scientist at Columbia Nursing. Currently, U.S. patients are screened for tobacco use in about 60% of office visits, and smokers are advised on how to quit less than 20% of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “These findings are a win in the ongoing battle against tobacco use, and they also point to a broader benefit of mobile applications in getting more clinicians to follow evidence-based practice guidelines,” Cato said.

The study evaluated tobacco screening rates for more than 14,000 visits at clinics in New York City. Clinic patients were treated by 185 registered nurses enrolled in advanced practice degree programs at Columbia Nursing. 

Funding for the research was provided by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Cancer Institute.

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