Virtual Counselling Increase a Success Factor For Tobacco Cessation Patients
Jason Ramsey is a young father from Charleston who struggled for years to overcome an addiction to cigarettes. His story is a familiar one because he’s not alone in his addiction; more than 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. The habit remains a leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death.
Dr. Emily Ware is a clinical pharmacy specialist with the Tobacco Treatment program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She offers behavioral counseling that helps patients kick the habit. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of her work has been virtual.
“We were restricted on how many people and how safely we could have patients come to the clinic,” Dr. Ware said. “So our ability to do telehealth visits was key to still be able to reach out to them and have that connection with patients.”
Dr. Ware said telehealth actually made it easier to connect with patients at their most vulnerable moments. Video visits also provide a visual of a patient’s environment which helps her give tips on how to change routines built around smoking.
Dr. Benjamin Toll is a professor of public health sciences and psychiatry, and director of the Tobacco Treatment program at MUSC. He said through virtual counseling he has been able to treat more patients than before.
“There are just many barriers that have been let up,” Dr. Toll said. “There’s no transportation issues, there’s no trying to leave work and drive here and then go back. It's just much easier to log on for 20 minutes and see one of our virtual counselors.”
Ramsey said he found success in the program and finally quit smoking. Without cigarettes in his life, he is saving more money and enjoying his health. Ramsey said he can run and play with his young children and not worry about feeling short of breath.
“They look at me as super dad all the time,” Ramsey said. “They used to be around people that smoke a lot and now they don't see their dad doing that and probably it makes them feel a lot better. I get to spend more time with them and just enjoy the experience of everything.”