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Implementing Smoking Cessation Telehealth Technologies Within the VHA: Lessons Learned.

Golden SE, Unger S, Slatore CG. Implementing Smoking Cessation Telehealth Technologies Within the VHA: Lessons Learned. [Abstract]. Federal practitioner : for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS. 2023 Aug 1; 40(8):256-260.


BACKGROUND: Health care systems need to reach patients who are smokers and connect them to evidence-based resources that can help them quit. Telehealth, such as an interactive voice response (IVR) system, may be one solution, but there is no roadmap to develop or implement an IVR system within the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). OBSERVATIONS: We describe the development and implemention of IVR at the VA Portland Health Care System in Oregon to proactively reach veterans who use tobacco and connect them with cessation resources. We coordinated with local departments to verify the necessary processes and strategies that are important. We recommend several questions to ask the IVR vendor and be prepared to answer before contract finalization. The Patient Engagement, Tracking, and Long-term Support (PETALS) initiative may be an excellent place to start for VA IVR-related questions and can be used for IVR initiation within the VA, but other vendors will be needed for nonresearch purposes. Finally, we describe the process timeline and steps to help potential users. CONCLUSIONS: IVR systems, once they are developed and implemented, can be efficient, low-cost, resource-nonintensive solutions that can effectively connect patients with needed health care services. Developing an IVR system within the VA was challenging for our research team. We experienced a large learning curve during implementation and hope that our experience and lessons will help VA personnel in the future.

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