Ten-minute intervention for risky drinkers

The Portland, OR-based Foundation for Accountability (FACCT) recently reported that the more consumers learned about screening, intervention, risks, and costs of alcohol misuse, the more they believed the health care system should screen and refer those at risk. A recent FACCT report states that 25% of adults misuse alcohol: 5% are dependent, while 20% are at risk, meaning they regularly or occasionally drink more than is healthy. It’s the at-risk drinkers who do not come to the attention of formal treatment services. That increases the importance of screening and education for alcohol misuse.

"Health care organizations that screen for potential alcohol misuse and provide effective prevention and treatment are ahead on two levels," according to Thomas F. Babor, PhD, professor and chairman in the department of Community Medicine and Health Care at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Babor is co-author of the paper commissioned by FACCT on alcohol misuse. "Services that help keep alcohol misuse problems from getting worse can improve the well-being of patients and enrollees — and reduce avoidable medical expenses," he says.

FACCT has developed a 10-minute protocol for screening and intervention:

• Physician screens patient for alcohol misuse (two minutes).

• Physician identifies the level of alcohol misuse in a patient identified as a "risky drinker" (three minutes).

• Nurse or health educator provides a "risky drinker" with enough information to often help change the behavior (two to five minutes).

[For more information about consumer-based quality measures, contact: Foundation for Accountability, 520 S.W. Sixth Ave., Suite 700, Portland, OR 97204. Telephone: (503) 223-2228. Fax: (503) 223-4336. E-mail: info@facct.org. World Wide Web: www.facct.org.]