Screening For Problem Drinking Is Cost-Effective Clinical Preventive Service

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Screening For Problem Drinking

A study by HealthPartners Research Foundation has found that screening for problem drinking is as cost-effective as some of the most used preventive services like childhood immunization, screening for colon cancer and hypertension, and taking aspirin to prevent stroke or heart attack. However, the screening is one of the least used by physicians in clinical settings.

"Alcohol screening and counseling are among the most important preventive services in terms of health impact and cost savings," said Dr. Leif Solberg, the study's lead investigator from HealthPartners Research Foundation. "This service deserves special attention by clinicians and care delivery systems since current delivery levels are the lowest among comparatively ranked services."

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The study also found that screening leads to positive health outcomes up to four years after the intervention, and reduces alcohol-related death.

-- On average, alcohol abuse costs the user $15,000 in lifetime medical and other alcohol-attributable expenses, 90 percent of which are preventable through behavior change.

-- Only 8.7 percent of problem drinkers report being screened and receiving assistance beyond simple quit advice.

-- The underutilized screening ranks among top five most cost-effective preventive services, ahead of nearly 20 other services evaluated by standardized measures.

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