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Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2013 Feb 28;8:9. doi: 10.1186/1747-597X-8-9.

Impact of system-level changes and training on alcohol screening and brief intervention in a family medicine residency clinic: a pilot study.

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Department of Family Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine and Medical Center of Central Georgia, 3780 Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 3, Macon, GA 31206, USA.



Although screening and brief intervention (SBI) are effective in reducing unhealthy alcohol use, major challenges exist in implementing clinician-delivered SBI in primary care settings. This 2006-2007 pilot study describes the impact of systems changes and booster trainings designed to increase SBI rates in a family medicine residency clinic which annually screened adults with a self-administered AUDIT-C questionnaire and used paper prompts to encourage physician interventions for patients with positive screens.


Investigators added the Single Alcohol Screening Question (SASQ) to nursing vital signs forms, added a checkbox for documenting brief interventions to the clinicians' outpatient encounter form, and conducted one-hour nurse and clinician booster trainings. Impact was measured using chart reviews conducted before implementing systems changes, then six weeks and six months post-implementation.


At all three time points screening rates using AUDIT-C plus SASQ exceeded 90%, however AUDIT-C screening decreased to 85% after 6 months (p=.025). Identification of unhealthy alcohol users increased from 4% to 22.9% at six weeks and 18.8% at six months (p=.002) using both screens. Nursing vital signs screening using the SASQ reached 71.4% six weeks after implementation but decreased to 45.5% at six months. Changes in clinician brief intervention rates did not achieve statistical significance.


This is the second study reporting sustained primary care alcohol screening rates of more than 90%. Screening patients with SASQ and/or AUDIT-C identified a higher percentage of patients with unhealthy alcohol use. Dissemination of effective strategies for identifying unhealthy alcohol users should continue, while future research should focus on identifying more effective strategies for increasing intervention rates.

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