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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Variation in Documented Care for Unhealthy Alcohol Consumption Across Race/Ethnicity in the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System

The VA Healthcare System has made progress implementing evidence-based care for unhealthy alcohol use, but whether there are differences in care across race/ethnicity is unclear.

We describe alcohol-related care for 3 racial/ethnic groups among VA outpatients with unhealthy alcohol use.

This cross-sectional study utilized secondary quality improvement data collected for the VA Office of Quality and Performance (July 2006 to June 2007) to identify a sample of 9,194 black (n = 1,436), Hispanic (n = 500), and white (n = 7,258) VA outpatients who screened positive for unhealthy alcohol use (AUDIT-C score ≥4 men; ≥3 women). Alcohol-related care was defined as medical record documentation of brief intervention (advice or feedback) and/or referral (discussion of or scheduled). Logistic regression models estimated the prevalence of alcohol-related care among black, Hispanic, and white patients after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, alcohol use severity, other substance use, and mental health comorbidity.

Among all eligible patients, 2,903 (32%) had documented alcohol-related care. Adjusted prevalences were 35.3% (95% CI 30.0 to 40.5) for black, 27.3% (95% CI 21.1 to 33.5) for Hispanic, and 28.9% (95% CI 25.5 to 32.3) for white patients. Differences in documented alcohol-related care between all racial/ethnic groups were significant (p-values all < 0.05).

Among VA patients with unhealthy alcohol use, black patients had the highest, and Hispanic the lowest, prevalence of documented alcohol-related care. Future research should evaluate contextual and system-, provider-, or patient-level factors that may attenuate racial/ethnic differences in documented alcohol-related care, as well as whether differences in documented care are associated with differences in outcomes.

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