• Academy Unveils New Telehealth Tobacco Cessation Resource

    November 18, 2020, 3:08 pm Michael Devitt -- While family physicians have traditionally used the office setting to counsel patients on the benefits of stopping or reducing tobacco use, the realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have caused FPs to develop other ways of providing high-quality care.

    physician talking to patient on computer

    To help FPs meet these challenges, the Academy is offering members a new resource. The Tobacco Cessation Telehealth Guide, developed by the AAFP in collaboration with Pfizer Inc., puts a wealth of educational resources and practice tools on telehealth and smoking cessation in the hands of FPs in one convenient location.

    “Telehealth has transformed dramatically this past year in ways that can benefit patients and clinicians,” said Adam Goldstein, M.D., M.P.H., a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and one of two expert consultants involved in creating the guide.

    “Family physicians increasingly want to apply their expertise in counseling patients about successful pharmacotherapy and behavioral approaches to smoking cessation. Now they can do this through virtual visits over the phone or computer, and they can get paid for it when they document their counseling,” Goldstein continued. “It’s a win for patients, a win for family physicians and a win for our health care system.”


    The four-page guide is packed with useful information, including

    • a table of HCPCS/CPT billing codes for tobacco cessation services, along with a link to a comprehensive list of applicable ICD-10 diagnosis codes;
    • an interactive flowchart from the AAFP’s Ask and Act tobacco cessation program that assists FPs in counseling patients on tobacco use;
    • a table of documentation requirements for smoking cessation-related CPT codes; and
    • collections of resources from the Academy and other organizations, along with references to government reports and peer-reviewed research.

    Additional Comments

    Goldstein, who also serves as director of the UNC Tobacco Treatment Program, expanded on the relationship between telehealth and smoking cessation for AAFP News.

    “Telehealth is here to stay, and smoking cessation counseling is here to stay,” he said. “Combining attractive technological solutions with high success rates and low costs is a marriage that was bound to happen.”

    Goldstein said that while telehealth cannot offer all of the services available in the office setting, such as physical exams, blood tests and X-rays, there are some advantages to counseling patients online.

    “Virtual encounters are convenient for patients and clinicians, and they limit unexpected difficulties, like driving or traffic, that may result in no-shows at the office,” Goldstein said. “They allow for private one-on-one conversations and are easy for family members to also attend from the comfort of patients’ own homes.”

    Goldstein also noted that the guide can remind members about the Great American Smokeout, an annual smoking cessation event started by the American Cancer Society in 1976 and held on the third Thursday of each November.

    “On the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 19, tens of thousands of patients that use tobacco will likely visit their family physicians across the U.S.,” Goldstein said. “Patients are interested in quitting, and they want our help.

    “We are trusted and credible,” Goldstein added. “It is up to us to help patients increase their chances of quitting successfully. With our help, we can increase the chances of success tenfold over what patients will achieve on their own.”