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J Fam Pract. 1995 Jun;40(6):556-61.

Including smoking status as a new vital sign: it works!

Author information

1
Department of Family Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Despite the adverse health consequences of smoking, many physicians still neglect to counsel smokers to quit. This study evaluated the effect of including smoking status as a vital sign on the frequency of physician discussions with patients about smoking and physician advice to quit smoking.

METHODS:

A consecutive sample of adult ambulatory patients in our metropolitan family practice residency program completed exit surveys on physician and nurse counseling about smoking. Control group data were collected for 1 month before the change was made to include smoking status as a vital sign on patient charts. Charts were then marked with a stamp as a chart prompt in the vital signs section. Data were collected for 2 months after smoking status was added to the stamp.

RESULTS:

There were 637 individuals surveyed, of whom 179 were current smokers; 95 in the "prestamp" group and 84 in the "poststamp" group. The percentage of patient-physician encounters during which smoking was discussed increased from 47% to 86% (P < .001). Physician advice to quit increased from 50% to 80% (P < .001). Physician discussion of smoking with patients increased across all of the five stages of change but most dramatically (53% to 95%) in the "preparation" stage. Physicians were much less likely to counsel patients in the "precontemplation" stage to quit smoking.

CONCLUSIONS:

Including smoking as a new vital sign significantly increased the likelihood of smoking-related discussions between patients and their physicians. The stamp is inexpensive and easy to use, and because it is a one-time office system change, it is more likely to be implemented and maintained in busy practices.

PMID:
7775909
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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