Background: Tobacco use counseling interventions delivered in the primary care setting are efficacious, but limited evidence exists regarding their feasibility or efficacy in the Emergency Department (ED). ED randomized controlled trials evaluating referral for outpatient tobacco use counseling have not had a single subject in the intervention groups attend scheduled clinic appointments. Telephone counseling potentially affords the opportunity to provide this population with individual counseling more conveniently than traditional clinic counseling. The purpose of this preliminary study was to evaluate the intervention completion rate among cigarette smokers enrolled through the ED in a tobacco quitline (QL) and to assess the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of this intervention.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized, controlled, un-blinded pilot study enrolling cigarette smokers presenting to a tertiary-care ED. Patients indicating a desire to quit smoking were randomized to receive either proactive telephone counseling through a QL (intervention) or a self-help manual (control).
Results: Of 212 smokers who indicated an interest in quitting, 20 subjects were randomized to the QL and 19 to control. Twenty-one did not meet inclusion criteria and 152 refused to participate. A total of 10 patients (50%) enrolled in the QL completed the full intervention. However, only a total of 20 patients (51%) were reached for follow-up at 3 or 6 months (10 in each arm). At 6-month follow-up a total of six subjects had either disconnected their phone, no longer lived at the provided phone number or had provided an incorrect number. Two declined to provide follow-up and the remainder could not be reached. Assuming all patients unavailable for follow-up were still smoking, the 7-day point prevalence smoking abstinence rate at 6 months was 20% (95% CI: 6 to 44%) for the QL group and 0% (95% CI: 0 to 15%) for the control group (p = 0.11).
Conclusion: Compliance with the QL intervention was encouraging and may hold promise for providing needed tobacco use counseling to ED patients. Future studies are required, and should focus on more effective mechanisms to obtain outcome measures and a larger sample size.