Using Technology to Expedite Screening and Intervention for Domestic Abuse and Neglect


  • Joellen W. Hawkins,

    1. R.N., W.H.N.P.-B.C., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., F.A.A.N.P., N.A.P., is Professor Emerita, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
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  • Carole W. Pearce,

    1. R.N., W.H.N.P.-B.C., Ph.D., is Professor Emerita, School of Health and Environment, Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts.
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  • Jackie Skeith,

    1. B.S., R.N.-B.C., is NTIA Project Director, Home Health VNA, Lawrence, Massachusetts (2001–2004), and Informatics Nurse, Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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  • Beth Dimitruk,

    1. M.S., is Author of Grant and Project Team Member, Home Health VNA, Lawrence, Massachusetts.
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  • Ritajean Roche

    1. M.S.W., is Social Worker, Home Health VNA, Lawrence, Massachusetts (1993–2004), and Social Worker, DSS, Supervisor, Gloucester Protective Unit, Gloucester, MA.
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Joellen W. Hawkins, 151 Stanton Avenue, Auburndale, MA 02466-3005. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: In response to escalation of community violence, the U.S. Department of Commerce funded Home Health VNA (HHVNA), serving the Merrimack River valley communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, for a project demonstrating innovative use of technology in screening for abuse and neglect.

Design: All health care providers in the HHVNA were trained in screening through tools loaded on their personal digital assistants.

Sample: The sample was comprised of patients served by HHVNA during the study period.

Intervention: When a patient screened positive, the health care provider mobilized resources, including social workers, the office of elder services, or the local department of social services office for same-day follow-up.

Outcomes: Screening for abuse and neglect was mainstreamed into routine care. Health care providers noted significant reduction in redundant domestic abuse data collection. The close communication networks created enabled health care providers to mobilize resources, initiating same-day in-depth social work assessment and referrals to appropriate community agencies. Health care providers now transmit selected encrypted health information and mandated reports to official agencies.

Conclusions: Wedding technology with health care professionals' skills and knowledge can move prevention of and early intervention for domestic abuse and neglect to a new level of efficacy.