Background: The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) smoking cessation guideline outlines a set of recommendations for physicians to follow in daily practice. However, the effectiveness of this guideline has not been reported. The goal of this project was to evaluate the effect of the AHCPR smoking cessation guideline on provider practices with smokers and on patient smoking rates.
Methods: Patient survey and chart review data from 138 Veterans Administration (VA) acute care medical centers with outpatient facilities were examined. Data were available from both sources in 1996, 1997, and 1998. At the midpoint of this period (1997), the VA recommended the AHCPR smoking cessation clinical practice guideline for implementation throughout the VA healthcare system.
Results: From 1996 to 1998, both the chart audit and the patient survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of patients in the VA who were counseled about smoking and a significant decrease in the percentage of patients who smoke.
Conclusions: Because the VA tied the guideline implementation to report cards and other performance-enhancing measures, guideline adherence may have been maximized in this setting. These findings suggest that healthcare systems should take an integrated approach to guideline implementation.