NHS Hammersmith and Fulham fight smoking with SMS

An innovative scheme to use mobile technology to obtain patients’ current smoking status and invite ‘quitters’ for Smoking Cessation services, has proved a great success in NHS Hammersmith and Fulham.

NHS Hammersmith and Fulham has a smoking prevalence of 24.2% and are committed to cutting that number down every year. They took part in the recent scheme using iPLATO Patient Care Messaging. As part of this, they requested each patients’ smoking status via text message. Once identified as a smoker, the patients were then sent an additional text message inviting them to enrol in Stop Smoking programmes. The results were presented this year at the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference (UKNSCC).

Altogether, 22 GP surgeries sent out requests for a patient smoking status via text message. The surgeries received 6,085 valid smoking status responses. Some of the top performing surgeries received as high as 57% valid response rates, with 95% of those responses received within 24 hours of sending the original message.

After confirming smoking status, the surgeries sent out another text, to enrol smokers in quit programmes. This message invited smokers to text ‘quit’ to be contacted by a member of the local stop smoking team.

Another way NHS Hammersmith and Fulham has reached out to smokers is by producing posters to be hung up around their borough. These posters direct patients to text ‘QUIT’ to a designated number printed on a poster, members of the public that text in to the designated ‘trigger’ number are subsequently contacted by the local Stop Smoking Service. The posters also give an option of a number to call if the ‘quitter’ does not want to text in. The iPLATO supported poster campaign ran for six months and generated 282 responses via text and approximately 300 by phone.

These initiatives have proved considerably more effective than traditional ways of obtaining information and reaching out to smokers. The cost savings possible with this approach has also proven to be compelling, when compared to the cost of previous methods employed for similar ends.

Tim Roberts stop-smoking manager, NHS Hammersmith and Fulham, said: “This way of reaching out to smokers to help them quit is not only effective but very fast, because of this, text messaging is an essential component in the promotion of stop smoking services.”

iPLATO Patient Care Messaging is increasingly being funded by PCTs for GP surgeries across the UK and is being used to address important public health concerns.

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