E-visits tested as way to help people to quit smoking

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By using e-visits and coordinating with primary care providers, Dr. Jennifer Dahne hopes to help more people in rural areas to quit smoking. Adobe Stock

People who live in rural areas are both more likely to smoke and less likely to quit than people in nonrural areas, said MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researcher Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D.

Dahne, a clinical psychologist who focuses on cigarette smoking among vulnerable populations, wants to reach these people and help them to become former smokers – and along the way reduce their risks for a dozen kinds of cancer.

Dahne also serves as the co-director of remote and virtual trials for the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research Institute based at MUSC. A remote trial, anchored by the primary care providers in their communities whom patients know and trust, looked like a possibility to help people in rural areas to quit smoking.

She’s now leading a team of researchers and clinicians, including primary care providers in communities served by MUSC Health-Florence Division and MUSC Health-Lancaster Division, on a $4.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to test whether a proactive electronic visit would help to promote smoking cessation.

Florence Division Chief Medical Officer Rami Zebian, M.D., is excited about the opportunity to get smoking cessation help to more people.

“This is something that's very much needed in our areas,” he said. “The percentage of smokers in Florence and Marion is huge, much higher than Charleston.”

Tobacco has been integral to the Pee Dee economy since the late 19th century. Zebian said he talks to many people who say they put their kids through college on tobacco farming. But they also note that they see the long-term effects of smoking – heart disease, strokes and cancer. As a pulmonologist, Zebian deals with some of those effects, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. And he sees a pattern among his patients.

“Every single one of my patients who has quit smoking, they all tell me one thing. They say, ‘I wish I quit sooner.’”

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan
Goal 4: Innovate Processes to Increase the Quality and Efficiency of Translational Research, Particularly of Multisite Trials
Goal 5: Advance the Use of Cutting-Edge Informatics