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Implementation of substance use screening in rural federally-qualified health center clinics identified high rates of unhealthy alcohol and cannabis use among adult primary care patients.

2023 Sep 20

Journal Article

McNeely, J.; McLeman, B.; Gardner, T.; Nesin, N.; Amarendran, V.; Farkas, S.; Wahle, A.; Pitts, S.; Kline, M.; King, J.; Rosa, C.; Marsch, L.; Rotrosen, J.; Hamilton, L.

Addict Sci Clin Pract







Adult; Cannabis; Ethanol; Humans; Illicit Drugs; Primary Health Care; Substance-Related Disorders

BACKGROUND: Screening for substance use in rural primary care clinics faces unique challenges due to limited resources, high patient volumes, and multiple demands on providers. To explore the potential for electronic health record (EHR)-integrated screening in this context, we conducted an implementation feasibility study with a rural federally-qualified health center (FQHC) in Maine. This was an ancillary study to a NIDA Clinical Trials Network study of screening in urban primary care clinics (CTN-0062).METHODS: Researchers worked with stakeholders from three FQHC clinics to define and implement their optimal screening approach. Clinics used the Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance (TAPS) Tool, completed on tablet computers in the waiting room, and results were immediately recorded in the EHR. Adult patients presenting for annual preventive care visits, but not those with other visit types, were eligible for screening. Data were analyzed for the first 12 months following implementation at each clinic to assess screening rates and prevalence of reported unhealthy substance use, and documentation of counseling using an EHR-integrated clinical decision support tool, for patients screening positive for moderate-high risk alcohol or drug use.RESULTS: Screening was completed by 3749 patients, representing 93.4% of those with screening-eligible annual preventive care visits, and 18.5% of adult patients presenting for any type of primary care visit. Screening was self-administered in 92.9% of cases. The prevalence of moderate-high risk substance use detected on screening was 14.6% for tobacco, 30.4% for alcohol, 10.8% for cannabis, 0.3% for illicit drugs, and 0.6% for non-medical use of prescription drugs. Brief substance use counseling was documented for 17.4% of patients with any moderate-high risk alcohol or drug use.CONCLUSIONS: Self-administered EHR-integrated screening was feasible to implement, and detected substantial alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use in rural FQHC clinics. Counseling was documented for a minority of patients with moderate-high risk use, possibly indicating a need for better support of primary care providers in addressing substance use. There is potential to broaden the reach of screening by offering it at routine medical visits rather than restricting to annual preventive care visits, within these and other rural primary care clinics.

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