Personalized Alerts and Care Pathways to Prompt Prevention Interventions for Alcohol and Tobacco Users in Primary Care

Official Title

Personalized Patient Alerts and Care Pathways to Prompt Prevention Interventions for Combined Alcohol and Tobacco Users in Primary Care


Tobacco and alcohol use present multiplicative risk for aerodigestive cancers. Reducing alcohol consumption improves smoking cessation outcomes and reduces cancer risk. Risky alcohol consumption and smoking are often treated separately despite concurrent treatment potentially leading to better outcomes for each. However, no rapidly scalable program exists for combined interventions in primary care clinics spread across wide geographic areas. This cluster randomized trial aims to report on the effects of a novel clinical decision support system (CDSS) on intervention rates by primary care practitioners addressing risky alcohol use in a smoking cessation program. The investigators will be implementing a clinical decision support system (CDSS) in 221 primary care sites participating in the Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients (STOP) program across Ontario, Canada. Sites will be blindly allocated to one of two clinical decision support systems guiding practitioners to provide a risky alcohol use intervention to smokers attempting to quit using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Risky alcohol use is defined as drinking above the Canadian Cancer Society's low-risk drinking guidelines. Primary analysis will measure the proportion of risky drinkers offered an alcohol intervention in each CDSS arm at baseline. Patients will be contacted by phone or email to track smoking cessation and alcohol consumption rates at 6- and 12-month follow up. Upon completion of the trial, the effect of different clinical decision support systems on practitioner behaviour, and on client tobacco and alcohol use, will be discussed. If the CDSS successfully promotes SBIRT for risky alcohol use in a primary care setting and/or improves patient-level outcomes, including smoking cessation rates and alcohol use reduction, this tool can be used as a model for other web-based behaviour change interventions integrated into primary care practice.

Trial Description

Primary Outcome:

  • Intervention offer by practitioner
Secondary Outcome:
  • Intervention delivery by practitioner
  • Smoking cessation and non-risky drinking
Background: Primary care providers work in busy settings responding to a variety of acute and chronic problems. Implementing even brief evidence-based interventions for cancer risk behaviours, such as tobacco smoking and excess alcohol consumption, is sub-optimal due to time and knowledge constraints. These behaviours cluster in the same person and confer a multiplicative, positively associated risk for aero-digestive cancers but are often addressed separately, if at all, despite alcohol consumption undermining smoking cessation. Processes that reduce time and effort and yet increase practitioner effectiveness show promise to increase adoption of such practices. Computerized clinical decision support systems (CDSS) within practices allow for prompt procedural knowledge for practitioners, simplifies the decision-making process, and provides recommendations for patient care. The initiation of the STOP Program (Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients
  • an Ontario-wide initiative providing smoking cessation to eligible smokers who wish to quit), has demonstrated that such a system allows for rapid adoption of smoking cessation interventions in primary care with 189 sites (80% of eligible sites) in Ontario treating 40,000 smokers in 2 years. Approximately 36% consume alcohol above Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) guidelines (less than one drink per day for women; less then two drinks per day for men; no engagement in binge drinking) and those that do have a lower quit rate. A combined alcohol and tobacco intervention delivered systematically using such a platform has never been studied before, which constitutes a missed opportunity to simultaneously address two closely related risk factors for cancer. Thus, implementation of a CDSS within the daily clinical workflow is a novel concept for cancer prevention with high potential to address the lack of brief interventions by health care providers. Objective: Assess the effectiveness of a CDSS to increase the rates of brief alcohol intervention by healthcare providers and to reduce alcohol consumption in adult smokers making a quit attempt. Methodology: Organizations from the STOP Program will be randomly allocated (1:1) to Group A or Group B. Patient Population: Adult consenting smokers of the STOP Program identified as drinking above the sex-specific cut off at baseline will be eligible for the intervention. Intervention: Half the sites will have a computer prompt built into STOP's data collection system, which will appear for any participant identified as drinking above the sex-specific cut off at baseline (Group A). The reminder will provide the practitioners with a five minute script advising their patient to reduce alcohol consumption to increase their chances of quitting smoking, and will be prompted to provide a self-help booklet to reduce alcohol intake. Sites without the prompt (Group B) will not receive reminders but will have access to the same resources.

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Canadian Cancer Society

These resources are provided in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society