"Between me and the computer": increased detection of intimate partner violence using a computer questionnaire

Ann Emerg Med. 2002 Nov;40(5):476-84. doi: 10.1067/mem.2002.127181.


Study objective: The emergency department is a problem-focused environment in which routine screening for intimate partner violence (IPV) is difficult. We hypothesized that screening for IPV during computer-based health-risk assessment would be acceptable to patients and improve detection.

Methods: We performed a descriptive study of IPV data collected during a controlled trial of computer-based health promotion in an urban hospital ED. Patients received computer-generated health advice, and physicians received patient risk summaries. Outcomes were patient disclosure and physician documentation of IPV and associated risks.

Results: Two hundred forty-eight patients (69% female, 90% black, mean age 39 years) participated in a clinical trial of computer-based health promotion in the ED. Of 170 women, 53 (33%) disclosed emotional abuse, and 25 (15%) disclosed physical abuse. Of 78 men, 22 (29%) disclosed emotional abuse, and 5 (6%) disclosed physical abuse. Patients were also willing to self-report a history or concern of hurting someone close to them. This was true for 21 (14%) women and 15 (22%) men. Controlling for demographic factors, disclosures of victimization and perpetration were associated with multiple psychosocial risks. Computer screening resulted in chart documentation in 19 of 83 potential cases of IPV compared with 1 case documented in the group that received usual care.

Conclusion: Providing an opportunity for patients to confidentially self-disclose IPV has the potential to supplement current screening efforts and to allow providers to focus on assessment, counseling, and referral for those at risk. However, further measures will be needed to ensure that information gathered through computer screening is adequately addressed during the acute care or follow-up visit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Computers
  • Confidentiality*
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population