Pay-for-Performance Gets Doctors to Push Smoking Cessation

Paying providers of health care to refer patients for help in quitting smoking really makes a difference.

A study, appearing in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at programs that tie physician pay to the quality of care. The key measure was clinics’ referrals of patients in Minnesota to a tobacco quit line. Researchers compared clinics that were paid bonuses for making such referrals — $5,000 for 50 referrals and $25 for each referral beyond the initial 50 — to clinics that didn’t have a financial incentive.

It turned out that the clinics that were in the pay-for-performance program made 1,483 referrals to the quit line, an average of 11.4% of their patients who were smokers. Those that didn’t have the chance to earn extra money made 441 referrals, an average of 4.2% of their smokers.

The researchers, led by Lawrence An of the University of Minnesota, noted some important factors for success beyond cold cash. For one, Minnesota health plans collaborated to make the referral process easy for the clinics. The clinics were also rewarded regardless of what health plan their patients belonged to, meaning that they could make the same recommendation to all smokers.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which funded the study and payments to the clinics with money from a tobacco settlement, decided along with a number of other Minnesota health plans to continue with the program around smoking cessation, albeit with lower financial awards, a spokeswoman tells us.

One important note is that Smoke Away, though they care about you using their product, also would suggest doing whatever you can in order to quit smoking. For more information, log onto the Smoke Away support site to talk with people who have quit with our product.

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