Aim: To compare two identification methods for risky drinking in primary health care centres (PHCs).
Methods: Sixteen PHCs from three Swedish counties were randomized into strands: consultation-based early identification (CEI) or systematic screening early identification (SS). Measurements took place at baseline and during two intervention periods. Patients filled in questionnaires including gender, age, if they had the issue of alcohol brought up during the consultation and the AUDIT-C (a three item screening tool). The intervention periods were preceded by training sessions for clinicians. The AUDIT-C was used for categorization of risky drinking with cut-offs for risky drinking set at ≥5 for men and ≥4 for women. In the SS strand, clinicians were supposed to give AUDIT-C to all patients for the identification of risky drinking. In the CEI strands, they were encouraged to use early clinical signs to identify risky drinking.
Results: The proportions of patients having the issue of alcohol brought up are higher during the intervention periods than baseline. A higher proportion of all patients and of risk drinkers in SS, than in CEI, had the issue of alcohol brought up. A higher mean score of AUDIT-C was found among patients having the issue of alcohol brought up in CEI than in SS, and this was also true after adjusting for age and gender.
Conclusions: More patients are asked about alcohol in the SS strand and thus have the possibility of receiving brief interventions. CEI identifies risk drinkers with higher AUDIT-C scores which might indicate more severe problems. No comparison of the effectiveness of a brief intervention following these alternative identification procedures is reported here.