Computer-assisted screening for intimate partner violence and control: a randomized trial

Ann Intern Med. 2009 Jul 21;151(2):93-102. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-2-200907210-00124. Epub 2009 Jun 1.


Background: Intimate partner violence and control (IPVC) is prevalent and can be a serious health risk to women.

Objective: To assess whether computer-assisted screening can improve detection of women at risk for IPVC in a family practice setting.

Design: Randomized trial. Randomization was computer-generated. Allocation was concealed by using opaque envelopes that recruiters opened after patient consent. Patients and providers, but not outcome assessors, were blinded to the study intervention.

Setting: An urban, academic, hospital-affiliated family practice clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Participants: Adult women in a current or recent relationship.

Intervention: Computer-based multirisk assessment report attached to the medical chart. The report was generated from information provided by participants before the physician visit (n = 144). Control participants received standard medical care (n = 149).

Measurements: Initiation of discussion about risk for IPVC (discussion opportunity) and detection of women at risk based on review of audiotaped medical visits.

Results: The overall prevalence of any type of violence or control was 22% (95% CI, 17% to 27%). In adjusted analyses based on complete cases (n = 282), the intervention increased opportunities to discuss IPVC (adjusted relative risk, 1.4 [CI, 1.1 to 1.9]) and increased detection of IPVC (adjusted relative risk, 2.0 [CI, 0.9 to 4.1]). Participants recognized the benefits of computer screening but had some concerns about privacy and interference with physician interactions.

Limitation: The study was done at 1 clinic, and no measures of women's use of services or health outcomes were used.

Conclusion: Computer screening effectively detected IPVC in a busy family medicine practice, and it was acceptable to patients.

Primary funding source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Ontario Women's Health Council.

Trial registration: NCT00385034.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidentiality
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted*
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Risk Assessment / methods*

Associated data