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Problematic alcohol use is associated with detrimental cognitive, physiological and social consequences. In the emergency department (ED), Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is the recommended approach to identify and treat adolescent alcohol-related concerns, but is underused by physicians.
This study examined pediatric emergency physicians’ perceptions of adolescent drinking and treatment, and their current self-reported SBIRT practices.
Physicians in the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada database (n=245) received a 35-item questionnaire that was administered through a web-based platform and paper-based mail-outs. Recruitment followed a modified Dillman four-contact approach.
From October 2016 to January 2017, 166 pediatric emergency physicians (46.4% males; mean age=43.6 years) completed the questionnaire. The response rate was 67.8%. Physicians recognized the need (65%) and responsibility (86%) to address adolescent alcohol problems. However, confidence in knowledge and abilities for SBIRT execution was low. Twenty-five percent of physicians reported never having practiced all, or part of, SBIRT while 1.3% reported consistent SBIRT delivery for adolescents with alcohol-related visits. More alcohol education and counselling experience was associated with higher SBIRT use; however, physicians generally reported to have received minimal alcohol training. SBIRT practices were also associated with physician perceptions of problematic alcohol use and its treatability.
Pediatric emergency physicians acknowledge the need to address problematic adolescent alcohol use, but routine SBIRT use is lacking. Strategies to educate physicians about SBIRT and enhance perceived self-competency may improve SBIRT use. Effectiveness trials to establish SBIRT impact on patient outcomes are also needed.