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NAQC Newsroom: NAQC News

New MDS Streamlining Guidance Document

Thursday, March 1, 2012  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
In the spring of 2012, North American quitlines anticipate a large increase in call volume due to two primary events:
  1. The implementation of new graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging in Canada. As of March21, 2012, manufacturers and importers of cigarettes and/or little cigars will be prohibited from selling or distributing packages of cigarettes and little cigars that do not display the new health warnings. Retailers have up to June18, 2012 to sell their inventory of cigarettes displaying the old health warnings. As of June19, 2012,only packages of cigarettes and little cigars that display the new health warnings can legally be sold at retail.
  2. A National Tobacco Education Campaign will be launched in March, 2012 and will run in the U.S. for 12 weeks. The ads will be tagged with the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number during most of the campaign, although there may be periods when the URL will be used. Quitlines should anticipate increases in call volumes as a result of this campaign.
Due to these very visible promotions of national toll free quitline numbers, quitlines in both countries are preparing for what could be a dramatic increase in call volume. As quitlines increase their capacity to handle surges in call volume, and make contingency plans, one issue that has come up multiple times is whether and how to streamline collection of Minimal Data Set intake data (as a strategy for decreasing the time for intake).

In late 2011 and early 2012, the Minimal Data Set Workgroup met to discuss these issues and make recommendations on ways to streamline MDS. The workgroup was made up of representatives of US and Canadian funders, service providers, and researchers. The group considered whether questions could be deleted, asked at a different time, or only asked of a sub-set of callers. Additional issues related to streamlining were also discussed. The workgroup’s recommendations are provided in the document available on the NAQC website (click here).

The guidance document is intended to provide guidance to quitlines considering ways to streamline their data collection procedures both to handle large increases in call volume, and to contain costs. NAQC recognizes that decisions regarding intake data are made by both quitline funders/administrators, and service providers. We recommend that the guidance document be used by both types of organizations in a collaborative effort to arrive at a streamlining solution that works for everyone.

The NAQC Minimal Data Set will not change, and for quitlines that are not experiencing financial constraints, NAQC recommends maintaining the full MDS intake questionnaire; however, NAQC recognizes that each quitline may have unique circumstances it needs to consider as it makes streamlining decisions, including different stakeholder groups’ assessement of relative priority for each item, and the importance of each question for evaluating quitlines and reporting on their performance.

Quitlines are encouraged to use the guidance document (click here) and discussion guide template (click here) as a starting point for internal discussions about revising their data collection procedures. The documents are NOT intended to replace the in-depth discussion that each quitline’s funder/administrator and service provider organizations will need to conduct. Through such discussion, NAQC hopes to facilitate the maintenance of quitline standards for intake questions while satisfying the needs of numerous different organizations and stakeholders, to the greatest extent possible. NAQC staff is available for additional technical assistance if quitlines have questions that cannot be answered with the information presented here. For additional help, comments, or questions, please contact Jessie SaulNAQC’s Director of Research, at

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