Smartphones and tablets may offer a new way for healthcare providers to help people quit smoking, according to a study from the Columbia University School of Nursing. 

New York City clinic nurses who had phones with tobacco screening guidelines asked patients in 84% of clinic visits about their smoking habits, and offered cessation counseling to 99% of smokers who were interested in quitting, researchers found. Currently, U.S. patients are screened for tobacco use in about 60% of office visits, and smokers are given information on how to quit less than 20% of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mobile tools not only made nurses more likely to screen, but may even out discrepancies.

“Screening for African-Americans, and men in particular, has traditionally lagged other populations, and the higher screening rates that we found for African-Americans suggest that mobile health-decision tools can help address health disparities,” Kenrick Cato, Ph.D., associate research scientist at Columbia Nursing, says. “The technology can serve to remove any unintended bias clinicians might have about which patients are most likely to benefit from intervention.”

The paper, “Response to a Mobile Health Decision-Support System for Screening and Management of Tobacco Use,” was published online in March in Oncology Nursing Forum.