Home > Is problem alcohol use being detected and treated in Irish general practice?

O'Regan, Andrew and Cullen, Walter and Hickey, Louise and Meagher, David and Hannigan, Ailish (2018) Is problem alcohol use being detected and treated in Irish general practice? BMC Family Practice, 19, (1), p. 30.

External website: https://bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10....

BACKGROUND: The pattern of alcohol consumption in Ireland has serious societal and health consequences. General practice is well placed to screen for problem alcohol use and to carry out brief interventions. The aims of this study were to investigate the prevalence of documentation of problem alcohol use in patient records in Irish general practice, and to describe the documentation of its diagnosis and treatment.

METHODS: General practitioners (GPs) affiliated with an Irish medical school were invited to participate in the study. One hundred patients were randomly selected from each participating practice using the practice software and the clinical records were reviewed for evidence of problem alcohol use. The following was recorded: patient demographics, whether problem alcohol use was documented, whether they had an intervention, a psychotropic medication or if a referral was made. Descriptive statistics and an estimate of the prevalence were calculated using SPSS and SAS software.

RESULTS: Seventy one percent of the practices participated (n = 40), generating a sample of 3, 845 active patients. Only 57 patients (1.5%, 95% confidence interval 1 to 2%) were identified as having problem alcohol use in the previous two years. 29 (51%) of those with documented problem alcohol use were referred to other specialist services. 28 (49%) received a psychological intervention. 40 (70%) were prescribed psychotropic medications.

CONCLUSION: This is the first large scale study of patient records in general practice in Ireland looking at documentation of screening and treatment of problem alcohol use. It highlights the current lack of documentation of alcohol problems and the need to re-inforce positive attitudes among GPs in relation to preventive work.

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