Smoking cessation support by text approved in MOH guidelines

Text messaging is now an acceptable method for assisting with smoking cessation programs under new guidelines from the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

First developed in 2007 as the New Zealand Smoking Cessation Guidelines, they have been revised this year and renamed as The New Zealand Guidelines for Helping People to Stop Smoking.

The guidelines still use the ABC pathway developed for the 2007 guidelines, which prompts healthcare workers to Ask about and document every person’s smoking status, give Brief advice to stop to every person who smokes, and strongly encourage every person who smokes to use Cessation support.

The guidelines state that the most effective components of cessation support are multi-session behavioural support and stop-smoking medicines. Behavioural support can be delivered face-to-face, by telephone, through text messaging or online.

There are several text-based support programs available, including the New Zealand Quitline's Txt2Quit, which was adapted from the STOMP system developed by the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Auckland.

Smoking cessation texts can also be sent through Vensa Health's TXT2Remind SMS-based patient reminder, which is integrated within general practice patient management systems including Medtech32, VIP and myPractice.

TXT2Remind allows practice teams to deliver appointment, screening and medication reminders as well as key health messages direct to the patient via text message and interactive mobile content delivery. In addition to smoking, it is being used for immunisations, cervical screening and heart health.

According to Vensa Health, over 80 per cent of general practices in Canterbury are using TXT2Remind with the support of Pegasus Health, Rural Canterbury PHO and Christchurch PHO to routinely ask about smoking status as a clinical vital sign and then to provide brief advice and offer quit support.

Moorhouse Medical Centre in Christchurch has just begun using TXT2Remind for its six-monthly smoking status checks. Practice manager Kate Verpoorten said the practice sent messages to thousands of patients and over half responded within the first day.

“For those that wanted advice we could immediately book an assessment appointment at the clinic,” she said. “We can also reinforce advice by text after that.”

Shirley Medical Centre practice manager Leanne Verdellen said she simply had to run a query builder of patients it wanted to target, construct a text and merge the two. “The replies come rolling in,” she said. “It’s the most efficient way of updating our records and allowed us to reach more patients who may require help with smoking cessation.”

Canterbury DHB has been able to lift its primary care smoking health target from around 50 per cent to 74 per cent using the system.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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