As we approach the last few days of 2015, our thoughts naturally turn to friends and family as well as to what the New Year will bring. I have been reflecting on these, and would like to share feedback we have heard from members about their priorities for quitlines as well as some NAQC resolutions for 2016. I hope we can count on you to help fulfill these resolutions!
Over the past year, many members of the Consortium have been working to enhance their quitlines by making them more consumer-focused, building eReferral capacity to advance health systems change within their states, strengthening partnerships with healthcare providers in provinces and states, considering new strategies for reaching and serving special populations, and considering ways to make quitlines more accessible to tobacco users and more sustainable.
What do NAQC members view as the priorities for the coming year?
August: At NAQC Conference 2015, we asked attendees to identify key topics for advancing their quitlines. We learned that the topics of most interest were:
For quitline funders: technology, priority populations, and sustainability.
For quitline service providers: eReferrals, quality assurance, and reach.
For researchers: technology, eReferrals, and priority populations.
For other attendees: reach, technology, and sustainability.
In response to a question about the “single most important priority for NAQC”, conference attendees provided this feedback:
- ACA and sustainability,
- Technology (including eReferral), and
- priority populations.
September: We shared this feedback with NAQC’s Advisory Council at its September meeting, and asked for their ideas and comments. This is a thoughtful group, and their comments did not disappoint!
- First, they acknowledged the importance of having a focus on reach to priority populations, especially those with behavioral health illnesses. Many Council members noted that quitlines are reaching priority populations fairly well, but may need to focus attention on treatment protocols and also on building a capacity to triage these callers to more intensive cessation services or to appropriate services for conditions other than tobacco dependence (i.e., management of diabetes and other chronic diseases).
- They recognized the importance of integrating technology into quitlines in order to make it easier for consumers to gain access to services through mobile devices, the internet or via phone; as well as to facilitate referrals via electronic health record systems from healthcare providers. A best practices report was suggested by the Council to help advance the adoption of technology.
- Lastly, they spent quite a bit of time discussing transformation of the healthcare system in the U.S. and its impact on quitlines. This was viewed as the most important issue for NAQC and for quitlines. State funders feel unable to plan for the future of the quitline due to uncertainties surrounding the ACA. The Council called on the federal government to clarify the specific “coverage” responsibilities of health plans/insurers under ACA. States continue to play an important role in funding quitlines as a “population-based intervention,” but their role may need to be reconsidered as the ACA requirements on cessation as an “individual preventive healthcare intervention” are clarified.
October: We briefed the board on these discussions at the fall meeting. The board agreed that all of these topics are essential for improving the capacity of quitlines and advancing our goal to help tobacco users quit. They advised that the single most important issue for the Consortium is making high quality cessation services like quitlines more accessible and more sustainable through implementation of the ACA.
What are NAQC’s resolutions for 2016?
As an organization, NAQC has always been driven by its mission, the priorities of its members, data, and policy opportunities. The feedback we have received over the past four months has helped us define some key resolutions for the New Year:
- Engage the quitline community in a dialogue on making evidence based quitlines more accessible and more sustainable through implementation of the ACA. We plan to use this year’s webinar series to get the dialogue underway.
- Create a Best Practices report on quitline services that provides guidance to the public health and healthcare communities on the key components of quitlines that make them effective in reaching tobacco users and helping them to quit. Integration of technology will be an important part of this report.
- Synthesize and share a literature and practice review on reaching and treating priority populations via quitlines. This review may be an especially important resource as HUD plans for public housing go smokefree nationwide.
- Continue offering training and technical assistance programs that support:
- Establishing partnerships between quitlines and health plans/employers;
- Improving cessation services and coverage for Medicaid members;
- Creating the capacity among all quitline operators to conduct eReferral with certified EHRs by 2017, and expanding the number of states that offer eReferral to healthcare partners.
We would appreciate hearing any comments you may have on these resolutions and hope you will help us fulfill them (Lbailey@naquitline.org
). Many thanks to all of you for your exceptional work this past year. Warm wishes from NAQC staff for a healthy New Year!
Linda A. Bailey, JD, MHS
President and CEO
North American Quitline Consortium