Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Department of Family Medicine

Posted in Research,Scholarships

Andrea Kubicki and Kirsten Salmela, 2018 Blake W.H. Smith Scholarship awardees.

This opportunity gave me insight into the knowledge that patients in the Upper Peninsula have regarding alcohol serving size.  The survey asked patients to answer the questions:

Patients were asked to fill out the survey with reference to pictures of standard serving sizes of various alcoholic drinks (i.e. beer, wine, and liquor). Over 250 surveys were passed out; 63 responses have been received thus far. There are plans for continued distribution over the following year.

The answers to each question was averaged among the 63 surveys and then compared to the standard provided by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The initial responses were 2.37, 1.74, 5.32, 4.01, and 8.24 in respective order to the questions provided.  The correct answers are 2,1, 5,4, and 5, respectively.  Upon initial analysis, we found that the majority of patients were somewhat accurate, with the exception of the average response to heavy drinking.

We plan to continue distribution with and gather more data to increase the power of the study.  We also will do further statistical analysis, such as comparison of different responses among demographic groups.

Based on the preliminary results, I learned that though patients are asked how much they drink and/or counseled on moderate alcohol intake, there may be a lack of knowledge regarding terms used in the healthcare setting regarding alcohol. For example, a male patient may be asked if they drink “moderately” to which they might reply “yes.” However, their idea of moderate may be 5 drinks a day rather than the NIAAA definition of 2. There is an assumption that patients understand these relative terms and this study points demonstrates that the knowledge is not universally known.

This study will make me more aware of terms that I use when discussing alcohol intake and other lifestyle changes with patients. Though it was not quantified in the study, some patients explained that they are asked how much alcohol they drink and often don’t receive any feedback. They leave the clinic wondering if the response was within appropriate limits. This comment leads into another potential opportunity for improvement in healthcare. It might be beneficial for providers to discuss recommended guidelines or provide educational handouts regarding alcohol intake to patients.

The study could be expanded to surveying providers. Do those counseling know what the “moderate”, “binge”, and “heavy” drinking guidelines are? It would then be interesting to compare these findings to those of the patients.