What's in a setting? Influence of organizational culture on provider adherence to clinical guidelines for treating tobacco use

Dorothy Y. Hung, Robynn Leidig, Donna R. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND:: Organizational culture is an important but underinvestigated feature of the work environment that can impact provider behavior, including adherence to clinical practice guidelines. There is substantial evidence that physician assistance to smokers can produce significant reductions in tobacco use. However, this evidence has not been well translated into practice, as only a small proportion of smokers receive recommended treatment during medical visits. PURPOSE:: This study examines organizational culture as a contextual feature of primary care clinics and its impact on adherence to evidence-based guidelines for treating tobacco use. METHODOLOGY:: Cross-sectional survey data were collected from 500 primary care providers in 60 community clinics located in New York City. Relationships between provider adherence to "5A" clinical guidelines, as recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service, and both provider and organizational covariates were described. We used hierarchical linear modeling to examine the associations between clinic culture and provider treatment patterns. FINDINGS:: Providers in clinics with stronger "group/clan," "hierarchical," and "rational" culture types, as compared with a "developmental" culture, reported greater adherence to 5A guidelines (p < .05). System-level structures and care processes were positively associated (p < .01), whereas number of ongoing quality initiatives was negatively associated with 5A delivery (p < .05). Provider familiarity with guidelines (p < .01), confidence with cessation counseling (p < .05), and perceived effectiveness in helping smokers quit were associated with more frequent 5A intervention (p < .01). PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS:: Findings suggest that organizational culture can influence provider adherence to cessation treatment guidelines, even when controlling for other factors known to affect practice patterns. Specifically, cultures that emphasize human resources and performance standards are conducive to integrating 5A guidelines into routine practice. Understanding the role of organizational culture enables healthcare managers and practitioners to be strategic when implementing, and also sustaining, use of evidence-based guidelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-163
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Care Management Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • evidence-based guidelines
  • organizational culture
  • provider behavior
  • quality improvement
  • tobacco use treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Policy
  • Strategy and Management


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