Objective: To determine whether telephone follow-up of selected female patients seen in an urban ED would improve domestic violence (DV) case finding.
Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional study was conducted on consecutive female patients between the ages of 16 and 65 years treated in an urban trauma center during July and August 1995. Record review identified those patients with conditions suggesting increased risk for DV: injury; substance abuse; complaints or diagnoses related to stress, anxiety, depression, or panic attack; or complaints of headache, nonspecific abdominal pain, generalized fatigue, or numbness lasting > 1 week. Attempts were made to telephone all patients who had high-risk presentations within 3 days of their emergency visits. Patients were contacted by a trained interviewer regarding the circumstances of their visits.
Results: There were 142 (9%) high-risk presentations out of 1,500 ED visits by women. Of these high-risk visits, 68 patients denied DV, 19 patients did no speak English, 16 patients gave an incorrect telephone number, 18 patients could not be reached after 3 telephone calls, and 6 patients did not give a telephone number. Of the remaining 15 patients, 5 were diagnosed at the initial visit as having experienced DV, and 10 admitted on the follow-up call that the visit had been related to DV or emotional stress at home.
Conclusion: A structured interview, conducted via telephone in follow-up of released ED patients, identified an additional 10 victims out of 142 high-risk presentations and 1,500 total ED presentations. This approach is labor-intensive, with a relatively low yield. Nonetheless, prospective identification of selective high-risk cases by physicians, coupled with subsequent social service telephone contact, may be a complement in department case finding.