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BMC awarded contract to study validity of primary care drug screening tools

(Boston) - Boston Medical Center (BMC) has been awarded a contract from the Mitre Corporation for approximately $173,000 for six months to test the validity of a self-administered screening tool to detect drug use in primary care patients.

Awarded as part of the White House Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) efforts toward meaningful use of electronic health records, the contract will allow researchers to test self-administered screening tools to identify illicit drug use. After determining the best method, it will be a candidate for dissemination for use in electronic health records nationally.

In the study, research assistants from Boston University School of Medicine and Public Health will administer questions about drug use to the 200 enrolled participants using a computer tablet followed by a more detailed assessment by interview.

BMC Internal Medicine Physician, Richard Saitz, MD, Principal Investigator of the study anticipates that a single self-administered question will perform well and will detect most people who are using drugs. According to Saitz, the same method is being used for a single item that identifies heavy alcohol use, which has been successful in identifying people with unhealthy alcohol use. Although single-item questions for drug and alcohol use have been validated, the study will focus on the validity of questions for self-administration, as might be done in a doctors' office waiting room.

"It is increasingly important for clinicians to identify patients using drugs so that they can be given appropriate advice and counseling to prevent negative health consequences," said Saitz, who is a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine and Public Health. "Having patients answer self-administered questions by computer or even on paper is more practical and efficient than being interviewed by a clinician in a busy health-care practice setting."

Contact: Gina Orlando
Boston University Medical Center

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