Physician-Patient Interaction for Smoking Cessation Medications: A Dance of Mutual Accommodation?

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Abstract

Objective

To study physician-smoker interactions around the receipt of smoking cessation medication prescriptions to better understand the low rates of reported assistance and follow-up.

Methods

A stratified random sample of smokers recently filling prescriptions for cessation medications was identified for a phone interview about the quitting experience. The transcriptions of those portions of 50 interviews that addressed cessation contacts with clinicians were reviewed by the co-authors and analyzed for quantifiable data, observations, and themes.

Results

Although there were low levels of reported physician adherence to the Assist and Arrange recommendations of the Public Health Service 5As clinical guideline for smoking cessation, 27 (55%) of these smokers were quit at 1 to 3 months after the medication fill. Smoker descriptions of the contacts with their physicians about smoking cessation suggested nonconfrontational, collaborative, and satisfying interactions that were flexibly dominated by either party. Physician assistance predominantly concerned use of the medication (66%).

Conclusions

These physician-smoker interactions seemed to be mutually accommodative. Given the apparent high quit rates and limited evidence of smoker interest in other forms of assistance, perhaps a physician-dominant encounter is not as common or as necessary as has been thought.

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