Alcohol counseling: physicians will do it

J Gen Intern Med. 1998 Oct;13(10):692-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1998.00206.x.


Objective: To assess the use of a brief provider-delivered alcohol counseling intervention of 5 to 10 minutes with high-risk drinking patients by primary care provider* trained in the counseling intervention and provided with an office support system.

Design: A group randomized study design was used. Office sites were randomized to either a usual care or special intervention condition, within which physicians and patients were nested. The unit of analysis was the patient.

Setting: Primary care internal medicine practices affiliated with an academic medical center.

Participants: Twenty-nine providers were randomized by practice site to receive training and an office support system to provide an alcohol counseling special intervention or to continue to provide usual care.

Intervention: Special intervention providers received 2 1/2 hours of training in a brief alcohol-counseling intervention and were then supported by an office system that screened patients, cued providers to intervene, and made patient education materials available as tip sheets.

Measurements and main results: Implementation of the counseling steps was measured by patient exit interviews (PEI) immediately following the patient visit. The interval between the date of training and the date of the PEI ranged from 6 to 32 months. Special intervention providers were twice as likely as usual care providers to discuss alcohol use with their patients. They carried out every step of the counseling sequence significantly more often than did usual care providers (p < .001). This intervention effect persisted over the 32 months of follow-up.

Conclusions: Physicians and other health-care providers trained in a brief provider-delivered alcohol intervention will counsel their high-risk drinking patients when cued to do so and supported by a primary care office system.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Counseling / education*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*