NEWS | November 25, 2013

Health System IT team honored for state's first electronic referral for smoking cessation


The Sacramento County Tobacco Control Coalition has honored UC Davis Health System’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR) team for creating the first two-way e-referral with the California Smokers' Helpline (1-800-NO-BUTTS) in the state.

(Left to right) Willy Bansi and Dr. Hien Nguyen with the health system's recognition award from Tobacco Coalition chair Carolyn Martin (Left to right) Willy Bansi and Dr. Hien Nguyen with the health system's recognition award from Tobacco Coalition chair Carolyn Martin

The new electronic records’ process ensures that smokers are contacted within one to two business days by Helpline, whose free telephone counseling support doubles a smoker’s chances of quitting. An added benefit of the new feedback process is that clinical providers receive a results message back from Helpline staff about their encounters with smokers. 

“Since it can take multiple attempts before a smoker quits for good, this e-referral is an important systems change that provides cessation help at every clinical encounter," said Elisa Tong, associate professor of internal medicine and one of the champions of the new process.  “In six months, we have had more than 280 e-referrals from a variety of clinics and departments. Care providers say they noticed a real benefit from the Helpline’s results feedback and follow-up support.” 

The California Smokers’ Helpline is a free, statewide quit-smoking service operated by UC San Diego's Moores Cancer Center. The Helpline offers self-help materials, referral to local programs, and one-on-one telephone counseling.

Tong credited fellow internist Hien Nguyen, medical director of UC Davis’ EMR system, and Clinical Information Systems specialist Willy Bansi with much of the design work and implementation. She said Nguyen’s leadership helped prioritize development of the project, which has attracted state and national interest. Tong also noted that Anthony Mayoral, the Helpline's director of Data Management and Information Systems, developed the underlying e-referral interface.

“Automated reminders and reliable follow-up information are among the great advantages of electronic medical records,” added Tong. “It’s a high-tech tool that helps improve quality of care. And when it comes to helping a smoker to quit, health-care providers need every possible tool in their medical kit."

Funding from the Affordable Care Act supported the development of UC Davis’ e-referral project. A UC Center for Health Quality and Innovation fellowship grant also supports Tong’s work in developing and promoting tobacco-cessation tools. Tong says the UC Davis team is planning to assist the other UC medical center campuses in launching similar e-referral programs. 

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit