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Background: Many hazardous and harmful drinkers do not receive clinician advice to reduce their drinking. Previous studies suggest under-detection and clinician reluctance to intervene despite awareness of problem drinking (PD). The Healthy Habits Project previously reported chart review data documenting increased screening and intervention with hazardous and harmful drinkers after training clinicians and implementing routine screening. This report describes the impact of the Healthy Habits training program on clinicians' rates of identification of PD, level of certainty in identifying PD and the proportion of patients given advice to reduce alcohol use, based on self-report data using clinician exit questionnaires.

Methods: 28 residents and 10 faculty in a family medicine residency clinic completed four cycles of clinician exit interview questionnaires before and after screening and intervention training. Rates of identifying PD, level of diagnostic certainty, and frequency of advice to reduce drinking were compared across intervention status (pre vs. post). Findings were compared with rates of PD and advice to reduce drinking documented on chart review.

Results: 1,052 clinician exit questionnaires were collected. There were no significant differences in rates of PD identified before and after intervention (9.8% vs. 7.4%, p = .308). Faculty demonstrated greater certainty in PD diagnoses than residents (p = .028) and gave more advice to reduce drinking (p = .042) throughout the program. Faculty and residents reported higher levels of diagnostic certainty after training (p = .039 and .030, respectively). After training, residents showed greater increases than faculty in the percentage of patients given advice to reduce drinking (p = .038), and patients felt to be problem drinkers were significantly more likely to receive advice to reduce drinking by all clinicians (50% vs. 75%, p = .047). The number of patients receiving advice to reduce drinking after program implementation exceeded the number of patients felt to be problem drinkers. Recognition rates of PD were four to eight times higher than rates documented on chart review (p = .028).

Conclusion: This program resulted in greater clinician certainty in diagnosing PD and increases in the number of patients with PD who received advice to reduce drinking. Future programs should include booster training sessions and emphasize documentation of PD and brief intervention.


This article was originally published in BMC Family Practice.

© 2005 Seale et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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