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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

CHEST 2008: Lack of provider knowledge may affect smoker quit rates

Published October 28, 2008 1:21 PM by Frank Visco

Smokers looking to break the habit may receive encouragement from their physicians, but that's about all they'll get.

Researchers from the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control have indicated that health-care providers do not have the proper training to help their patients through the cessation process. They went on to suggest that this lack of knowledge may actually affect smoker quit rates.

"[Providers] are very good at advising patients to quit, but they don't know enough," said the study's lead researcher, Virginia Reichert, NP. "If you don't know a nicotine patch is over the counter, how are you going to help?"

According to the study, which was presented Monday in Philadelphia at CHEST 2008, the 74th annual international scientific assembly of American College of Chest Physicians, 600 health-care providers displayed a surprising lack of knowledge in a 17 question survey.

Of those surveyed, 87 percent of physicians and other medical professionals received less than five hours of training on tobacco dependence and less than six percent knew the treatment guidelines laid out by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Reichert said that the average score was a 35 and indicated that no particular sect (physicians, respiratory therapists, medical students, etc.) exhibited more knowledge on the topic than others. Although she was unsurprised that providers did not know the symptoms of withdraw, Reichert was shocked that many did not know the prevalence of smoking.

"I was getting surveys that said 75 percent of the public smokes, 2 percent, it was all over the map," she said.

Reichert pointed out that 70 percent of smokers report a desire to quit, but believe it will be difficult to do so without some sort of assistance. She also said smokers are 30 percent more likely to quit with assistance from their health care provider.

"Just advice alone helps people to quit," she said, "so imagine if we actually helped them."



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