Background: Smoking is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Recommendations for increasing physician effectiveness in smoking cessation through the use of office-based activities have been disseminated, but the extent of implementation is unknown. We describe the degree to which selected family practices in Nebraska have implemented 15 specific office-based activities.
Methods: We employed a cross-sectional integrated multimethod design. A research nurse observed a target physician and his or her staff during a 1-day visit in a random sample of 89 family practices. Data collection consisted of focused observation of the practice environment, key informant interviews, medical record reviews, and in-depth interviews with the physicians.
Results: The majority of the practices sampled had an office environment that restricted smoking, but few used visual cessation messages or information in the waiting room offering help and encouraging patients to quit. Most had educational materials that were supplied by pharmaceutical companies for promoting nicotine replacement systems. These materials were easily accessible in more than half of the practices. Smoking cessation activities were initiated and carried out by physicians with minimal use of their staff. Smoking status was documented in 51% of the medical records reviewed but seldom in a place readily accessible to the physician. All physicians were very aware of the importance of smoking cessation counseling, and most felt confident in their skills.
Conclusions: Despite identification of patient smoking as a problem, most practices were not using office-based activities to enhance and support physician counseling. New perspectives for helping practices with this task need to be explored.