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KUMC earns $2 million to help smokers quit

Two departments at the KU Medical Center have collaborated to win a four-year grant worth more than $2 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the efficacy of using computer-based video counseling to assist patients trying to quit smoking.

KU’s Center for TeleMedicine and TeleHealth will implement technology that will allow investigators in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health to compare the use of video counseling versus traditional smoking cessation phone counseling.

Counseling services will be provided by KUMC counselors who are trained in tobacco dependence treatment.

The services will be provided using Web-based cameras in both the counselors’ location and at approximately 25 primary care physicians’ practices that allow the patient and counselor see and hear each other.

“Traditional phone counseling is somewhat removed from the patient’s doctor,” said Kimber Richter, associate professor of preventive medicine and public health at KUMC and principal investigator on the grant. “We want to see if having a direct link to a counselor in the doctor’s office has a better impact on the patient’s success. We’re also thrilled that we have a partner here at KUMC whose expertise in video and software technology makes this study possible.”

Part of the study involves recruiting the participating physicians’ practices, which will be located in rural areas across Kansas.

“In addition to finding the best way to counsel those who are trying to quit smoking, this study will provide data regarding the use of telemedicine services,” said Ryan Spaulding, director of KUCTT. “In our experience, the use of video greatly enhances long-distance medical services, but we’re hoping this study will provide definitive data to support that experience.”

This study complements the other smoking cessation research by the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, which focuses on understanding and treating tobacco dependence among the medically underserved. Especially innovative programs include a trial of a culturally targeted smoking cessation intervention for Native Americans, investigations into gene-medication interactions related to smoking cessation among African Americans, and Spanish-language computer kiosks to inform Latinos of medication and counseling resources in area safety net clinics.

The KUCTT is a leader in telehealth services and research. Beginning in 1991 with a single connection to a community in western Kansas, the Kansas telehealth network has grown to more than 60 sites across the state. During that time, nearly 20,000 clinical consultations have been conducted across 30 specialties, making the KUCTT one of the most active telemedicine programs in the world.

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