8,500 Physicians Get Aetna Stop Smoking Toolkit

Encouraging doctors to take "30 seconds to save a life," Hartford, Conn. Insurer Aetna distributed "Advising Smokers To Quit" toolkits to more than 8,500 family-practice and internal-medicine physician offices in Southern New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas this fall. The kits are intended to encourage a dialogue between physicians and patients on smoking cessation and also to give information and tools to help physicians with management of their patients who smoke.

The company said the physicians in these targeted offices were chosen because they see more than 900,000 Aetna members who frequently use their services, in addition to patients who are not Aetna members who stand to benefit from this program. "This outreach emphasizes the important role that physicians can play in helping their patients quit smoking," said Dr. Dexter Campinha-Bacote, Aetna's medical director for the North Central region. "Studies have shown that smokers are almost twice as likely to successfully quit for five or more months if they have a physician help them with the process."

The materials sent to the physicians include an action plan sheet, a fact sheet that offers patients reasons to quit and quitting tips, a cover letter underscoring the importance of physician intervention and listing three simple steps for physicians (ask patients about their tobacco use; advise them to quit; and refer them to the national telephone Quitline maintained by the National Cancer Institute, 800-QUIT NOW), a poster for the physicians, and a "prescription note" that also refers patients to the Quitline.

"Smoking harms nearly every organ in the human body, increases the risk of at least 10 different cancers, and accounts for some 30 percent of all cancer deaths, yet despite all that, more than one in five Americans still smokes," said Joanne Pike, vice president, Corporate Initiatives for the American Cancer Society. "Aetna is providing its members with the resources to help them quit, including giving their physicians the tools to help their patients accomplish their goal of being smoke-free."

This new program is part of Aetna's larger effort to help members with the difficult process of quitting smoking. Aetna also recently launched the Aetna Healthy Lifestyle Coaching Program, a telephone-based coaching service that offers one-on-one coaching sessions, educational materials, and Web-based tools, rewards, and incentives. One of the areas of focus for the coaching program is to help members quit smoking.

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