A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Alcohol, substance screenings: Tools for better health care

Doctor with a clipboard, meeting with a patient - Alcohol and substance use screening

Marshfield Clinic’s alcohol and substance use screening consists of just a few simple questions.

If you’ve gone to the doctor recently, you may notice you’re being asked some new questions about alcohol and substance use when staff is getting you ready to see your medical provider.

For patients at Marshfield Clinic Health System, an alcohol and substance use screening gives medical providers a more complete picture of their patients’ health habits.

“Every patient 18 years and older will be screened once a year when they come in for a physical or wellness visit,” said Jan Simonson, a clinical quality nurse specialist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We just ask a few simple questions so we can understand what their habits are.”

It’s about patient education

Simonson said this information helps providers educate their patients about the consequences of their alcohol or substance use choices. This screening also helps providers see a fuller picture of their patients in terms of their total health.

In Wisconsin especially, alcohol is such a part of our culture,” Simonson said. “We’re trying to shift the culture so people understand it’s not healthy to use wine, beer or other substances to help you cope with everyday life challenges.”

Simonson said the key to this culture change is public education, which can start in the doctor’s office. She added that many people are unaware of just how much alcohol they are consuming and how it affects their health.

Low-risk alcohol consumption for men is no more than four drinks per day and 14 drinks per week. For women, low-risk alcohol consumption is no more than 3 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week.

Part of a comprehensive assessment

This is not at all about pointing fingers or assigning blame,” Simonson said. “This is about education, changing the culture and raising awareness about how alcohol and substance use impact our lives. This is just part of our normal assessment, just like taking your blood pressure or asking about tobacco use.”

If patients want help reducing their alcohol or substance use, Marshfield Clinic Health System is able to refer those individuals for further education or treatment.

“We just really want people to know, this is something we are doing for every patient to improve their overall health,” Simonson said.

If you’d like to go through this screening or talk to your provider about your overall health, schedule a wellness visit.

  1. Avatar Jan 25, 2018

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