This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on the health hazards of smoking. While we are encouraged by the significant progress we have made in reducing the percentage of smokers from 43% to 18% in the past 50 years, the cost impact of smoking continues to ride high. According to the surgeon general’s report, the annual cost attributed to smoking in the US is between $289 billion and $333 billion.

According to the Cancer facts and figures 2013, in spite of Smoking-related diseases being the world’s most preventable cause of death, tobacco accounts for the cause of 1 in 5 deaths. In addition, the quality of life is significantly impacted due to the increased risk of chronic diseases.

With 42.1 million smokers still in the system, to achieve a smoke free world would require creative and integrated approach. CDC fact sheet on smoking highlights the challenges with quitting smoking – “Quitting smoking is difficult and may require several attempts.Users often return to smoking because of withdrawal symptoms, stress, and weight gain”.

With such challenges, for a successful cessation program, Patient engagement is crucial. To enable lasting behavioral change of a smoker, three key patient engagement vectors can play a decisive role. They are:

Resources: The accesses to information, research, tools, care teams, counseling experts is very critical to aid cessation efforts. Access to research and tips from fellow smokers who have quit smoking can be useful models. For example, according to a Duke University study on smoking cessation, “Smokers reported that consuming milk, water, fruits and vegetables worsened the taste of cigarettes, while consuming alcohol, coffee and meat enhanced their taste, according to the scientists.” Such studies can help win the battle against craving with life style changes.

The US Department of Health and Human service’s Clinical Practice Guideline for treating Tobacco use and dependence calls out that individual, group, and telephone counseling can be very effective in smoking cessation efforts.

Reassurance: As the journey towards a smoke free life progresses, there can be significant challenges from withdrawal symptoms due to nicotine dependence. The reassurance from social circles can be very crucial. According to smokefree.gov “two out of five smokers felt that support from others mattered a lot in their success in quitting”. The site calls out the 12 tips in getting the support you need.

Rewards: Smoking cessation brings lots of rewards and it is important to highlight the rewards of quitting smoking to the smoker to encourage him to stay the course. Smokefree.gov highlights the rewards of quitting through its definition of health milestones. For example, within 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure drops. The ability for patients to see such trends visualized can be very powerful and rewarding.

Cisco Extended Care is a patient engagement and care collaboration platform that can be leveraged to provide the three R’s of patient engagement for driving wellness of smokers. It enables access to care teams and support network using video, access to recorded educational videos provided by the care teams, ability to track quality of life questionnaires, self-report, track and visualize wellness device readings from anywhere.

If you are planning to attend HIMSS14 in Orlando, please visit the Cisco booth (#1453) to see first-hand how Cisco Extended Care can help your organization engage your patients.


Rajesh Vargheese


Cisco Healthcare Solutions