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Tobacco-control policies in 11 leading managed care organizations: progress and challenges

CONTEXT: Although evidence-based national guidelines for tobacco-dependence treatment have been available since 1996, translating these guidelines into clinical practice is challenging. PRACTICE PATTERN EXAMINED: Policies regarding tobacco-dependence treatment (e.g., written guidelines and coverage of pharmacotherapy) and implementation strategies of 11 U.S. managed care organizations known to have strong tobacco-control programs. DATA SOURCES: Detailed telephone interviews with multiple informants at each health plan and review of written treatment guidelines and policies for tobacco dependence. RESULTS: Although 10 of 11 plans had adopted tobacco-dependence treatment guidelines consistent with the national guideline, fewer had guidelines for special groups, such as adolescents (6 plans), parents (5 plans), pregnant women (5 plans), and hospitalized smokers (3 plans). Most plans offered clinician training and recommended office systems to support provider efforts; however, fewer actively facilitated their implementation. Most plans provided other support for tobacco treatment, including dedicated budgets, designated staff, and an oversight committee. All plans offered some coverage for tobacco-cessation pharmacotherapy and behavioral counseling, although not to the extent recommended by the national guideline. CONCLUSION: Implementation of national tobacco-treatment guidelines is feasible in closed-panel managed care organizations. However, even these leading health plans could do more to comply with national practice guidelines on tobacco-dependence treatment and make it easier for clinicians to help patients stop smoking (e.g., through increased training and expanded coverage of tobacco-dependence treatment).

Authors: Rigotti NA; Quinn VP; Stevens VJ; Solberg LI; Hollis JF; Rosenthal AC; Zapka JG; France E; Gordon N; Smith S; Monroe M

Eff Clin Pract. 2002 May-Jun;5(3):130-6.

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