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Keywords:

  • alcohol screening;
  • elderly;
  • alcohol education;
  • evaluation

Objectives: To evaluate whether providing physicians and older patients with personalized reports of drinking risks and benefits and patient education reduces alcohol-related risks and problems.

Design: Prospective comparison study.

Setting: Community primary care.

Participants: Twenty-three physicians and 665 patients aged 65 and older.

Intervention: Combined report, in which six physicians and 212 patients received reports of patients' drinking classifications and patients also received education; patient report, in which 245 patients received reports and education, but their five physicians did not receive reports; and usual care.

Measurements: Assessments at baseline and 12 months later to determine patients' nonhazardous (no known risks), hazardous (risks for problems), or harmful (presence of problems) classifications using the Computerized Alcohol-Related Problems Survey (CARPS). The CARPS contains a scanned screening measure and scoring algorithms and automatically produces patient and physician reports and patient education.

Results: At baseline, 21% were harmful drinkers, and 26% were hazardous drinkers. The patient report and combined report interventions were each associated with greater odds of lower-risk drinking at follow-up than usual care (odds ratio=1.59 and 1.23, respectively, P<.05 for each). The patient report intervention significantly reduced harmful drinking at follow-up from an expected 21% in usual care to 16% and increased nonhazardous drinking from 52% expected in usual care to 58%. Patients in the combined report intervention experienced a significantly greater average decrease in quantity and frequency.

Conclusion: Older primary care patients can effectively reduce their alcohol consumption and other drinking risks when given personalized information about their drinking and health.