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Harvard-Affiliated Hospital Will Screen All Patients for Alcohol and Drug Use


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.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Nomen Nescio / July 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    “Bedside Intervention”? That sounds ominous. Is this “Intervention” voluntary or involuntary?If involuntary, is it under the standard “72 hour hold” (which we all know is really months to years with current “boarding” practices!), or is there a separate framework in place? This is a *very* DANGEROUS SLOPE!

  2. Floyd Frantz / July 11, 2014 at 5:00 am

    It’s about time that the medical community recognized the need for this, given the number of studies over the past several years indicating the need for this sort of intervention.

  3. Suzcounselor / July 10, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    And after the patient is screened-which should actually be done by a certified or licensed addiction counselor, then what? Is there a follow up process in place to see if the advice from the “reachable moment” was followed? Is there an assessment performed using ASAM criteria to determine the appropriate level of care needed? Is there a call to the MCO to get authorization for treatment? Are there treatment providers available for the patient’s immediate admission? Are there funds available for those who cannot afford their co-pays or those who still have no insurance? Are there services offered to the patient’s family-because addiction is a family disease? Are there consequences for non-compliance? Just asking….because a brief screening intervention is not enough. If “screening is part of your plan to improve addiction treatment” I ask, what happens next?

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