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Evaluation of a Direct Mailing Campaign to Increase Physician Awareness and Utilization of a Quitline Fax Referral Service

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Research has shown that fax referral services play an important role in linking people who are ready to quit tobacco use with effective cessation support provided through telephone-based quitlines. While many states have implemented fax referral services to assist health care providers in connecting their patients to quitlines, few published studies delineate optimum ways to promote this service to providers, particularly the role of direct mail educational campaigns. This is one of the first studies to evaluate the effectiveness of a small-scale educational and promotional campaign designed to increase health care providers' awareness and utilization of a state tobacco cessation quitline fax referral service. The campaign included a direct mailing to 6,197 health care providers in North Carolina. The mailing consisted of a large tube, in the shape of cigarette, with enclosed fax referral promotional materials. An 8-month follow-up survey was mailed to a 10% random sample of family physicians, pediatricians, dentists, and orthodontists who were sent the promotional tube mailing. Valid surveys were returned by 271 providers (response rate = 46%). Forty-four percent of respondents remembered receiving the tube mailing, and 40% reported familiarity with the fax referral service. While only 3.5% of respondents reported referring a patient to the quitline using the fax referral service in the previous 6 months, almost one-third reported an intention to use the fax referral service in the future. The pilot promotional campaign increased awareness of the fax referral service more than service utilization. While increased utilization of the service by health care providers appears promising, additional research is needed on how to maximize educational and promotional campaigns that influence clinician fax referral behaviors. The results of this study can help guide the development of future fax referral promotional campaigns to increase clinician access to and utilization of state quitlines.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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