Computer-Assisted Guidance for Dental Office Tobacco-Cessation Counseling

A Randomized Controlled Trial


      Decreases in smoking prevalence from recent decades have slowed, and national goals to reduce tobacco use remain unmet. Healthcare providers, including those in physician and dental teams, have access to evidence-based guidelines to help patients quit smoking. Translation of those guidelines into practice, however, remains low. Approaches that involve screening for drug use, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) are a promising, practical solution.


      This study examined whether dentists and dental hygienists would assess interest in quitting, deliver a brief tobacco intervention, and refer to a tobacco quitline more frequently as reported by patients if given computer-assisted guidance in an electronic patient record versus a control group providing usual care.


      A blocked, group-randomized trial was conducted from November 2010 to April 2011. Randomization was conducted at the clinic level. Patients nested within clinics represented the lowest-level unit of observation.


      Participants were patients in HealthPartners dental clinics.


      Intervention clinics were given a computer-assisted tool that suggested scripts for patient discussions. Usual care clinics provided care without the tool.

      Main outcome measures

      Primary outcomes were post-appointment patient reports of the provider assessing interest in quitting, delivering a brief intervention, and referring them to a quitline.


      Patient telephone surveys (72% response rate) indicated that providers assessed interest in quitting (control 70% vs intervention 87%, p=0.0006); discussed specific strategies for quitting (control 26% vs intervention 47%, p=0.003); and referred the patient to a tobacco quitline (control 17% vs intervention 37%, p=0.007) more frequently with the support of a computer-assisted tool integrated into the electronic health record.


      Clinical decision support embedded in electronic health records can effectively help providers deliver tobacco interventions. These results build on evidence in medical settings supporting this approach to improve provider-delivered tobacco cessation.

      Trial registration

      This study is registered at NCT01584882.
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