To measure the rates and predictors of clinician recommendation for follow-up after a positive screen for unhealthy drug use
, in a context of mandatory routine screening
. To measure response to clinician recommendations and identification of new drug use diagnoses.
Data are from a Veterans
Health Administration (VHA) medical center that introduced mandatory routine screening
for unhealthy drug use
in outpatient primary care and mental health settings, using a validated single question. This study analyzed VHA electronic health records data for patients who screened positive for unhealthy drug use
(n = 570) and estimated logistic regression models to identify the predictors of receiving a recommendation for any follow-up and for specialty substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Bivariate tests were used for other analyses.
Among patients who screened positive for unhealthy drug use
, 66% received no recommendation to return to primary care or another setting from the screening
clinician. Further, among the 23% of patients who received a recommendation to visit specialty SUD treatment, only 25% completed the visit within 60 days. Six percent of all positive screens both received a referral
to specialty SUD treatment and acted upon it.
In the context of mandatory drug use screening
using a single item, rates of clinician action and patient receipt of care appeared low. Improved follow-up will require health systems to provide more supports for clinicians and patients at each of the stages from positive screen to attending the follow-up appointment.