An Evaluation of an Intervention to Assist Primary Care Physicians in Screening and Educating Older Patients Who Use Alcohol

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 53, no. 11, Nov. 2005, p. 1937-1943

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Arlene Fink, Marc N. Elliott, Mark C. Tsai, John Beck

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OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether providing physicians and older patients with personalized reports of drinking risks and benefits and patient education reduces alcohol-related risks and problems. DESIGN: Prospective comparison study. SETTING: Community primary care. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-three physicians and 665 patients aged 65 and older. INTERVENTION: Combined report, in which six physicians and 212 patients received reports of patients' drinking classifications and patients also received education; patient report, in which 245 patients received reports and education, but their five physicians did not receive reports; and usual care. MEASUREMENTS: Assessments at baseline and 12 months later to determine patients' nonhazardous (no known risks), hazardous (risks for problems), or harmful (presence of problems) classifications using the Computerized Alcohol-Related Problems Survey (CARPS). The CARPS contains a scanned screening measure and scoring algorithms and automatically produces patient and physician reports and patient education. RESULTS: At baseline, 21% were harmful drinkers, and 26% were hazardous drinkers. The patient report and combined report interventions were each associated with greater odds of lower-risk drinking at follow-up than usual care (odds ratio=1.59 and 1.23, respectively, P<.05 for each). The patient report intervention significantly reduced harmful drinking at follow-up from an expected 21% in usual care to 16% and increased nonhazardous drinking from 52% expected in usual care to 58%. Patients in the combined report intervention experienced a significantly greater average decrease in quantity and frequency. CONCLUSION: Older primary care patients can effectively reduce their alcohol consumption and other drinking risks when given personalized information about their drinking and health.

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