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Implementation of an "opt-out" tobacco treatment program in six hospitals in South Carolina.

OBJECTIVE: Describe the screening, referral, and treatment delivery associated with an opt-out tobacco treatment program (TTP) implemented in six hospitals varying in size, rurality and patient populations.

METHODS: Between March 6, 2021 and December 17, 2021, adult patients (≥ 18 years) admitted to six hospitals affiliated with the Medical University of South Carolina were screened for smoking status. The hospitals ranged in size from 82 to 715 beds. Those currently smoking were automatically referred to one of two tobacco treatment options: 1) Enhanced care (EC) where patients could receive a bedside consult by a trained tobacco treatment specialist plus an automated post-discharge follow-up call designed to connect those smoking to the South Carolina Quitline (SCQL); or 2) Basic care (BC) consisting of the post-discharge follow-up call only. An attempt was made to survey patients at 6-weeks after hospitalization to assess smoking status.

RESULTS: Smoking prevalence ranged from 14 to 49% across the six hospitals; 6,000 patients were referred to the TTP.The delivery of the bedside consult varied across the hospitals with the lowest in the Charleston hospitals which had the highest caseload of referred patients per specialist. Among patients who received a consult visit during their hospitalization, 50% accepted the consult, 8% opted out, 3% claimed not to be current smokers, and 38% were unavailable at the time of the consult visit. Most of those enrolled in the TTP were long-term daily smokers.Forty-three percent of patients eligible for the automated post-discharge follow-up call answered the call, of those, 61% reported smoking in the past seven days, and of those, 34% accepted the referral to theSCQL. Among the 986 of patients surveyed at 6-weeks after hospitalization quit rates ranged from 20%-30% based on duration of reported cessation and were similar between hospitals and for patients assigned to EC versus BC intervention groups.

CONCLUSION: Findings demonstrate the broad reach of an opt-out TTP. Elements of treatment delivery can be improved by addressing patient-to-staffing ratios, improving systems to prescribe stop smoking medications for patients at discharge and linking patients to stop smoking services after hospital discharge.

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