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Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jan;33(1):37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2014.10.021. Epub 2014 Oct 22.

Using process indicators to optimize service completion of an ED drug and alcohol brief intervention program.

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Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, PO Box 5010, Atlanta, GA 30302. Electronic address:
Institute of Public and Preventive Health and Department of Psychology, Georgia Regents University, 1120 Fifteenth St CJ2300, Augusta, GA 30912. Electronic address:
Department of Family Medicine, Medical Center of Central Georgia and Mercer University School of Medicine, 3780 Bloomfield Village Dr Suite 1, Macon, GA 31206. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, PO Box 5010, Atlanta, GA 30302. Electronic address:



The strongest evidence for effectiveness of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) programs is in primary care settings. Emergency department (ED) studies have shown mixed results. Implementation of SBIRT into ED settings is complicated by the type of patients seen and the fast-paced, high-throughput nature of the ED environment that makes it difficult to reach patients flagged for SBIRT services. This study uses data from an ED-based SBIRT program to examine the relationship between screen-positive rate, ED patient flow, and SBIRT service delivery.


Data for the study (N = 67137) were derived from weekly reports extracted directly from one hospital's electronic health record. Measures included time and day of patient entry, drug/alcohol screen result (positive or negative), and whether the patient was reached by SBIRT specialists. Factorial analysis of variance compared variations in screen-positive rates by day and time and the percentage of patients reached by SBIRT specialists during these periods.


Overall, 56% of screen-positive patients received SBIRT services. Only 5% of patients offered SBIRT services refused. Day and time of entry had a significant interaction effect on the reached rate (F12,14166 =3.48, P < .001). Although patient volume was lowest between 11 pm and 7 am, screen-positive rates were highest during this period, particularly on weekends; and patients were least likely to be reached during these periods.


When implementing an ED-based SBIRT program, thoughtful consideration should be given to patient flow and staffing to maximize program impact and increase the likelihood of sustainability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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