Across the country health insurance coverage for smoking cessation treatment – both counseling and medications – has been extremely patchy. For example, we ask all the new patients attending our smoking cessation clinic in New Jersey if their insurance covers smoking cessation treatment, and the vast majority have no idea. Typically its also not easy for either the patient or provider to find out either. It doesn’t just depend on the insurer, but on the plan, the type of service, what they’ve already had in terms of preventive care. We’ve had many occasions where we call the insurer twice on the same day and get a different answer. And New Jersey is a state that is supposed to have relatively good insurance coverage for tobacco cessation! So it’s a mess nationwide, and the net result is that fewer patients get the treatment they need because they are put of by the uncertainty about the cost and difficulty finding out how much it is. Read more »
I’ve previously written about what face-to-face smoking cessation services typically do, largely based on my own experience. However, while at the SRNT annual conference I met two Smoking Cessation Advisors working in Lancashire, England who appeared to have a successful service, so thought it worth sharing some of their information.
Jan Holding and Eileen Ward manage a UK National Health Service (NHS) Stop Smoking Service in Lancashire in the north of England. Both are nurses by training and many of the 14 staff providing the treatment have primarily a nursing background. Their service sees around 450 new clients per month (i.e. over 5000 new clients per year). Services are provided at “community sessions” at various locations all over their catchment area, and clients are given their own hand-held record which they keep, and take with them to sessions, enabling them to attend whichever community location suits them at the time. While clients can make scheduled appointments, the service is also flexible, allowing clients to “drop-in” to community sessions without an appointment. Although some initial assessment sessions take place in a group format, most of the sessions are delivered in a one-to-one format via a relatively brief discussion with a smoking cessation advisor. These community sessions often take place in a large community room from 4pm to 8 pm in the evening, with multiple types of services being provided in the same room at the same time at different corners (e.g. initial assessments in one corner, prescribing of varenicline in another, and nicotine replacement therapy in another). It is not uncommon for around 200 clients to attend a single community session.
Clients are frequently encouraged to use NRT prior to quitting smoking (about half do this) and usually use more than one smoking cessation medicine (more than half do). Nicotine replacement therapy is provided via a voucher system requiring either no cost to the client, or just a co-pay (around $10 USD).
The service runs 6 days per week and includes evening sessions, and aims to reduce most of the usual barriers to entering treatment. Their “3 As” approach emphasizes “Accessibility, Availability and Adaptability”. They also specifically try to develop smoking cessation advisors who are passionate about their role, have a positive attitude to the importance of quitting smoking, and are therefore very committed to that work, as well as being knowledgeable about it.
My understanding is that the quit rates at this service are pretty good. But perhaps the best testimony to its success is the fantastic volume of clients who attend…..largely influenced by positive word-of-mouth via other clients. The success of this service reminds us that there isn’t just one way to do it, that all smoking cessation counselors and systems may need to be flexible and adaptable in order to help as many smokers to quit as possible.
For further information on what a smokers’ clinic does, see: What does a tobacco treatment clinic do?