Clinical Trial Will Test Effectiveness of Referrals to Quit Line in Wisconsin Healthcare Clinics

UW-CTRI is partnering with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Gundersen Health System on a new clinical trial to test an innovative functionality in electronic health records (EHR) that allows clinicians to electronically refer patients who use tobacco to the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.

The trial, known as the Quit Line Referral Method Study, includes 24 clinics, a dozen each from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Gundersen Health System. In each system, 6 clinics will test the closed-loop, HIPAA-compliant electronic referral (eReferral) to the Quit Line via EHR, while another 6 will operate the Fax to Quit program. Fax to Quit, designed by UW-CTRI to allow clinicians to refer patients to the Quit Line via a paper fax, has been implemented within hundreds of clinics across the state (669 registered; 225 active), and shown to increase referrals to the Quit Line fivefold.

UW-CTRI Outreach Director Rob Adsit and UW-CTRI Associate Researcher Mark Zehner have been integral to the preparation for this Quit Line Referral Method Study. UW-CTRI Regional Outreach Specialists Allison Gorrilla, Kris Hayden, and Amy Skora are developing the study clinic training materials and providing training and technical assistance to the medical teams at Gundersen and Wheaton Franciscan. The UW-CTRI Outreach and Communications teams have created manuals for clinic staff who are implementing the Fax to Quit and eReferral study protocols.

UW-CTRI and Epic Systems staff have collaborated to design the EHR functionality to fit the structure and workflow of typical healthcare delivery and practice. The new clinical trial will test whether the eReferral system when integrated into existing EHR and clinical practice enables the health systems to engage more smokers with tobacco cessation treatment.

The project is made possible by a 7-year, $6.1 million R35 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) called the Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA), given to UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore. The OIA allows funded investigators the flexibility to embark on long-term, transformative projects of unusual potential in cancer research; the opportunity to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their lines of inquiry; and sufficient time to develop new techniques.