Care Transformation Center Blog

Why smoking cessation programs don't have to kill your bottom line

by Tomi Ogundimu and Abby Burns

According to the FDA, smoking is the leading cause of preventable heart disease, cancer, and death in the United States. The many patients who suffer from smoking-related conditions are more expensive to treat because of their longer lengths-of-stay, greater inpatient and post-acute complications, and higher rates of readmissions.

While smoking has become far less common in recent years, hospitals are increasingly offering smoking cessation programs to patients as a preventive measure to increase patient health and decrease medical costs. Such programs can help patients quit—and can be accomplished with few resources and little to no investment.

Smoking cessation programs on the rise, but long-term impacts are questionable

There's no one-type-fits-all hospital-based smoking cessation program. Some programs provide inpatient-only education and counseling alongside pharmacotherapy; others provide inpatient counseling and refer patients to outside support services; while still others go as far as providing inpatient and outpatient counseling.

But what is the impact of smoking cessation programs? A wealth of research studies show that these programs are moderately effective at helping patients use fewer cigarettes, quit smoking, decrease acute care utilization, and live longer. That said, the long-term impact of these programs is limited, as only 6.2% of smokers who try to quit are successful─most patients eventually relapse.

Minimal-investment programs show equal success to high-investment options

Considering the high rates of relapse, many hospitals are looking for smoking cessation programs that require only small investments but still yield desirable results. And they're in luck: Research suggests that not only can online smoking cessation programs be as successful as in-person programs, but they can offer advantages over more traditional programs.

These programs are more sustainable to operate because they have no associated costs or staffing needs. Additionally, online or app-based options are accessible to patients who may not be willing or able to participate in more traditional interventions, increasing treatment adherence.



How to understand the wellness spectrum

The term "wellness" includes a spectrum of different approaches to employee health. Each approach has different aims and, most importantly, different expected returns.

Programs aimed at promoting healthy habits among employees are at one end of the spectrum. These healthy lifestyle initiatives are likely to lead to improved employee engagement and productivity—but they're unlikely to reduce the total cost of care. To do that, you'll need to take a population health approach.

Learn the different approaches to wellness and get six steps to apply population health strategies to your employees.

Get the Infographic



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