The STUN (STop UNhealthy) Alcohol Use Now trial: study protocol for an adaptive randomized trial on dissemination and implementation of screening and management of unhealthy alcohol use in primary care

Trials. 2021 Nov 16;22(1):810. doi: 10.1186/s13063-021-05641-7.


Background: Unhealthy alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the USA and is associated with many societal and health problems. Less than a third of people who visit primary care providers in the USA are asked about or ever discuss alcohol use with a health professional.

Methods/design: This study is an adaptive, randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the effect of primary care practice facilitation and telehealth services on evidence-based screening, counseling, and pharmacotherapy for unhealthy alcohol use in small-to-medium-sized primary care practices. Study participants will include primary care practices in North Carolina with 10 or fewer providers. All enrolled practices will receive a practice facilitation intervention that includes quality improvement (QI) coaching, electronic health record (EHR) support, training, and expert consultation. After 6 months, practices in the lower 50th percentile (based on performance) will be randomized to continued practice facilitation or provision of telehealth services plus ongoing facilitation for the next 6 months. Practices in the upper 50th percentile after the initial 6 months of intervention will continue to receive practice facilitation alone. The main outcome measures include the number (and %) of patients in the target population who are screened for unhealthy alcohol use, screen positive, and receive brief counseling. Additional measures include the number (and %) of patients who receive pharmacotherapy for AUD or are referred for AUD services. Sample size calculations determined that 35 practices are needed to detect a 10% increase in the main outcome (percent screened for unhealthy alcohol use) over 6 months.

Discussion: A successful intervention would significantly reduce morbidity among adults from unhealthy alcohol use by increasing counseling and other treatment opportunities. The study will produce important evidence about the effect of practice facilitation on uptake of evidence-based screening, counseling, and pharmacotherapy for unhealthy alcohol use when delivered on a large scale to small and medium-sized practices. It will also generate scientific knowledge about whether embedded telehealth services can improve the use of evidence-based screening and interventions for practices with slower uptake. The results of this rigorously conducted evaluation are expected to have a positive impact by accelerating the dissemination and implementation of evidence related to unhealthy alcohol use into primary care practices.

Trial registration: NCT04317989 . Registered on March 23, 2020.

Keywords: Alcohol; Counseling; Embedded telehealth; Implementation science; Practice facilitation; Primary care; Quality improvement; Screening; Unhealthy alcohol use.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking* / therapy
  • Counseling
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic

Associated data