Massachusetts General Hospital, affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, has announced it will screen all patients for alcohol and illegal drug use starting this fall.
All patients will be asked a series of four questions related to drinking and drugs, The Boston Globe reports. If the answers reveal a possible addiction, a special addiction team can be called to do a “bedside intervention” and arrange for treatment. While many hospitals screen patients for substance use when they come into the ER, Mass. General will screen all patients, whether they are coming in for a routine procedure or being treated in the emergency room.
The screening is part of its plan to improve addiction treatment, the article notes. Almost one-fourth of patients nationwide who visit hospitals for routine medical problems have active substance use disorders, according to the newspaper. Dealing with substance abuse in traditional medical settings can help hospitals better coordinate care and lower costs. The Affordable Care Act is pushing hospitals and doctors to reach both these goals.
Dr. Sarah Wakeman, Medical Director for Substance Use Disorders at Mass. General’s Center for Community Health Improvement, said the hospital wants to shift the culture to make it easier for people to access care for addiction. Being in the hospital is “a reachable moment,’’ when social workers and psychiatrists can bring treatment to the patient at the bedside, she said.