New Grant to Evaluate eReferral to the Quit Line

Dr. Danielle McCarthy
Dr. Danielle McCarthy

A new grant from the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UW-ICTR) will evaluate electronic referrals from primary-care clinics to the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line. The grant, led by UW-CTRI Associate Director of Research Dr. Danielle McCarthy (right), focuses on implementation and dissemination. UW-ICTR will provide $150,000 over 18 months to UW-CTRI.

“The study will identify key factors that influence when and how clinic staff refer patients to the Quit Line via eReferral,” McCarthy said. “We hope to learn how we can increase the number of patients referred and promote eReferral as a way to help underserved patients who smoke access treatment to quit.”

UW-CTRI researchers will analyze data from the electronic health records (EHR) at Gundersen Health System and Ascension, observe their clinic staff at work, and conduct in-depth interviews with clinic staff about offering eReferral to patients who smoke. The goal is to identify ways to encourage clinic staff to consistently offer eReferral to smokers.

To do this, UW-CTRI will work with participating clinics to develop and evaluate the use of timely feedback and incentives (e.g., small payments to clinics) to enhance the rates at which clinic staff refer patients via EHR to the Quit Line.

Previous UW-CTRI research demonstrated eReferral can quadruple the reach of referrals to the Quit Line (relative to fax referrals). Based on those findings, Gundersen and Ascension adopted eReferral to the Quit Line throughout their healthcare systems.

“The new study will identify factors associated with the effectiveness of eReferral implementation across staff and clinics,” McCarthy said. “It will identify implementation strategies that enhance the reach and equity of eReferral.”

The healthcare systems partnering in this research will learn more about how well eReferral implementation works and ways to enhance it.

“Patients served by these healthcare systems will benefit from increased access to the Quit Line,” McCarthy said. “We hope many will quit, and we’ll learn more about how best to support them.”


Baker TB, Berg KM, Adsit RT, Skora AD, Swedlund MP, Zehner ME, McCarthy ME, Glasgow R, Fiore MC. (2021) Closed-loop eReferral from Primary Care Clinics to a State Tobacco Cessation Quitline; Effects Using Real World Implementation TrainingAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 60, Issue 3, Supplement 2, March 2021, Pages S113-S122.