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Qual Prim Care. 2011;19(1):43-7.

Raising achievement: educating physicians to address effects of at-risk drinking on common diseases.

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American College of Physicians, Department of Clinical Policy, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.



Despite a high prevalence, internists rarely screen for at-risk drinking. A contributing factor is likely to be physicians' limited understanding of the negative effects that at-risk drinking can have on common clinical conditions managed on a daily basis.


To develop and conduct a pre-post pilot evaluation of a web-based educational programme to educate and support physicians to assess alcohol use in patients with sleep disorders, depression and hypertension.


An expert panel developed a programme that addressed: 1) screening for alcohol use; 2) evidence on effect of alcohol on hypertension, sleep disorders and depression; 3) brief interventions for at-risk drinking with patient education materials; and 4) codes for payment of brief alcohol interventions. From an internist network, 17 physicians were recruited for a pilot test of the web-based educational programme. All participants were surveyed at baseline and at an end point three months after the intervention about attitudes, knowledge and beliefs about at-risk drinkers and effects of alcohol on hypertension, sleep disorders and depression.


Among the 17 study physicians: 1) most believed that at-risk drinking affected their ability to treat hypertension, sleep disorders and depression (77% at baseline and 65% at end point); 2) nearly all were aware that at-risk drinking affects hypertension, sleep disorders and depression (94% at baseline and 94% at end point); and 3) 94% rated the educational programme positively at the end point. Frustration with managing at-risk alcohol use decreased (from 71% at baseline to 53% at end point) and study physicians' self-reported screening for at-risk drinking increased for new patients (from 47% at baseline to 71% at end point) and established patients (from 35% at baseline to 47% at end point).


This pilot of a web-based educational programme for internists was well received by study physicians. The programme increased screening for at-risk drinking while reducing frustration in dealing with this condition. Future work needs to evaluate this highly accessible programme in diverse practices and assess patient-related outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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