Characteristics of Patients Engaging in Quitline Counseling After an Electronic Referral

Susan A. Flocke, Elizabeth L. Albert, Steven A. Lewis, Eileen L. Seeholzer, Steffani R. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Proactive, electronic referral of primary care patients to quitlines has great potential to provide evidence-based tobacco-cessation assistance to tobacco users. However, the quitline contact rates and engagement of individuals beyond 1 counseling call are poor. This study examines the characteristics of electronically referred patients who engage with the quitline. Methods: This cross-sectional study included 2,407 primary care patients who reported using tobacco and accepted an electronic referral to the quitline. Outcomes included contact, enrollment, and receipt of ≥2 counseling sessions from the quitline. All measures were assessed from the electronic health record. The association of patient characteristics and outcomes was evaluated using logistic regression modeling with generalized estimating equation methods. Data were collected in 2016‒2018 and were analyzed in 2020. Results: Among 2,407 referred patients, 794 (33.0%) were contacted; of those, 571 enrolled (71.9%); and of those, 240 (42.0%) engaged in ≥2 quitline counseling sessions. In multivariable analyses, older adults (aged 50–64 and ≥65 years) were significantly more likely to be contacted (OR=2.32, 95% CI=1.6, 3.4) and to receive ≥2 counseling sessions (OR=2.34, 95% CI=1.2, 4.7) than those aged 18–34 years. Those with both Medicare and Medicaid insurance coverage were more likely than those with Medicaid only to be contacted (OR=1.71, 95% CI=1.4, 2.2), to enroll (OR=1.84, 95% CI=1.2, 2.9), and to receive ≥2 counseling sessions (OR=1.83, 95% CI=1.2, 2.9). Conclusions: The current quitline phone-based approach is less likely to engage younger adults and those with Medicaid coverage; however, there is a need to improve quitline engagement across all patients. Identification and testing of alternative engagement approaches are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e191-e195
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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