Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 1482–1486

Alcohol Counseling Reflects Higher Quality of Primary Care

  • Richard Saitz
  • Nicholas J. Horton
  • Debbie M. Cheng
  • Jeffrey H. Samet
Brief Report

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0574-4

Cite this article as:
Saitz, R., Horton, N.J., Cheng, D.M. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 1482. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0574-4



Some primary care physicians do not conduct alcohol screening because they assume their patients do not want to discuss alcohol use.


To assess whether (1) alcohol counseling can improve patient-perceived quality of primary care, and (2) higher quality of primary care is associated with subsequent decreased alcohol consumption.


A prospective cohort study.


Two hundred eighty-eight patients in an academic primary care practice who had unhealthy alcohol use.


The primary outcome was quality of care received [measured with the communication, whole-person knowledge, and trust scales of the Primary Care Assessment Survey (PCAS)]. The secondary outcome was drinking risky amounts in the past 30 days (measured with the Timeline Followback method).


Alcohol counseling was significantly associated with higher quality of primary care in the areas of communication (adjusted mean PCAS scale scores: 85 vs. 76) and whole-person knowledge (67 vs. 59). The quality of primary care was not associated with drinking risky amounts 6 months later.


Although quality of primary care may not necessarily affect drinking, brief counseling for unhealthy alcohol use may enhance the quality of primary care.


alcoholcounselingbrief interventionquality of primary care

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Saitz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicholas J. Horton
    • 6
  • Debbie M. Cheng
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jeffrey H. Samet
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit, Section of General Internal MedicineBoston Medical Center and Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Youth Alcohol Prevention CenterBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiostatisticsBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsSmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA