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Utah Clinic Uses State Resources to Help Patients Quit Smoking

clinic employee in front of way to quit sign
Jaime Fitzgerald, Exodus Healthcare nurse care coordinator, with the Way to Quit Sign in the lobby of the clinic.
Paige Fieldsted, Sr. Communications Specialist, HealthInsight Utah

In August 2014 the township of Magna had the highest adult smoking rate in Utah at 25.6 percent; When Jaime Fitzgerald, nurse care coordinator for Magna-based Exodus Healthcare, heard that statistic she knew the clinic needed to do something to help.

"We want to be a partner for better community health," Fitzgerald said. "Smoking affects every organ in the body and quitting is one of those things that can help all disease processes and increase quality of life."

Exodus Healthcare began by partnering with the Salt Lake County Health Department and the Utah Tobacco Quit Line. Training was done to educate physicians and medical assistants on medications and how to refer patients that want help quitting to the Tobacco Quit Line.

HealthInsight Utah provided training on motivational interviewing and the 5 Stages of Change to help providers at Exodus recognize when patients are ready to quit and how to help them through the process of change.

"Dr. Brian Zehnder and the team at Exodus Healthcare play a vital and proactive role in the health of their community. They are always looking for ways to reach the needs of their patients," Ryan Brown, project manager at HealthInsight said. "A good example of this is their integration of the State’s tobacco cessation services into office visits. This partnership brings new resources to the community including free nicotine replacement therapy."

Fitzgerald said the team at Exodus worked hard to implement small process changes that have helped them reach the big goal of helping patients quit. During each patient visit, medical assistants use the electronic health record (EHR) system to send a message to Fitzgerald if a patient is interested in quitting tobacco; she gathers those referrals and sends them to the Utah Tobacco Quit Line. Fitzgerald is also available for further counseling.

"Our goal is patients having a better quality of life and we want to support that however we can," Fitzgerald said. "The changes and improvements from quitting are immediate but change can be really hard for people and we want to be able to encourage them and motivate them in the process."

The process has so far been successful in getting patients the tools they need to quit using tobacco. Since the new process was implemented in August 2014 Exodus Healthcare has referred more than 400 patients to the Quit Line, accounting for more that 50 percent of all Quit Line referrals in Utah.

Patients who don’t accept services from the Quit Line or who can’t be reached are referred back to the clinic and Fitzgerald reaches out to them again.

"There have been studies that show it takes the average adult seven tries to quit smoking," Fitzgerald said. "Our hope is that with this constant reaching out the faster they will accept quitting. When they feel supported the more likely it is they will make a change."

Tamara Anderson, community relations coordinator, said the smoking cessation program is just another step toward becoming a patient-centered medical home and said that taking small steps and making small changes can help clinics make big changes that impact patient lives.

"It is part of our DNA now, part of the care process. It has become a regular part of our medical process because we made it easy for our providers to do it,” Anderson said. “It is a win for them and a win for us to have healthier patients. It creates trust between the provider and the patient. It shows we care about the overall health and are working to meet all the needs of the patient, instead of just treating them when they are sick."