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J Rural Health. 2008 Spring;24(2):133-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2008.00149.x.

Vital signs screening for alcohol misuse in a rural primary care clinic: a feasibility study.

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Department of Family Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA, USA.



Alcohol misuse is more common in rural areas, and rural problem drinkers are less likely to seek alcohol treatment services. Rural clinics face unique challenges to implementing routine alcohol screening and intervention.


To assess the feasibility of using the single alcohol screening question (SASQ) during routine nursing vital signs in a rural clinic, and to determine its effect on alcohol screening and intervention rates.


Patient exit interviews were used to identify alcohol misuse and to measure changes in screening and intervention rates. Chi-square tests were used to compare rates of screening across study phases, while odds ratios from logistic regression analyses were used to quantify association between nurse screening and clinician intervention.


Exit interviews were completed by 126 current drinkers (41 before vital signs screening implementation and 85 afterward). Screening rates for alcohol misuse rose from 14.6% at baseline to 20.0% (P = .027) after screening implementation. Clinician intervention rates among alcohol misusers rose from 6.3% to 11.8% (P = .039). Nurse screening increased the odds of clinician intervention (OR 1.47; 95% CI 1.10-1.95).


Vital signs screening proved to be feasible in this rural clinic and produced modest but significant increases in alcohol screening by nurses and brief interventions by clinicians. Additional studies are needed to define effective strategies for further increasing these rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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