Previous studies in which research-based assessment for alcohol problems at admission was compared with physician diagnoses indicated that many alcohol diagnoses in hospitalized patients were missed. We estimated the extent to which hospital records documented detection of alcohol abuse or dependence and other alcohol-related problems in a national sample of hospital admissions having a research-based diagnosis of alcohol use disorder ("interview-positive admissions"). We also estimated rates of inpatient alcohol intervention and referral for treatment.
A complex, multistage, probability sample was designed to represent nonmaternity, acute-care admissions to nonfederal, short-stay, general hospitals in the contiguous United States. The study included 2040 admissions, 1613 male and 427 female. Research-based diagnoses of current (ie, past 12 months) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition alcohol use disorder were derived from a structured, computer-assisted, personal interview containing the Alcohol Use Disorders and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule. Information on detection, inpatient intervention, and treatment referral were obtained via retrospective analysis of closed hospital records covering the index visit.
Record-documented diagnoses of alcohol-related problems were found in 40% to 42% of interview-positive admissions. Inpatient intervention rate was estimated at 21% for interview-positive admissions, and treatment referral rate, 24%. For detected interview-positive admissions, estimated rates of intervention and referral were 50% and 53%, respectively.
Estimated rates of detection, inpatient intervention, and treatment referral of alcohol use disorders in hospital admissions were low. Current-drinking hospital admissions should be screened for alcohol problems as part of the admission routine, with further professional evaluation, intervention, and treatment referral as indicated.