Electronic prompts mean more primary care patients get advice about drinking

Williams E.C., Lapham G., Achtmeyer C.E. et al. ‘Use of an electronic clinical reminder for brief alcohol counseling is associated with resolution of unhealthy alcohol use at follow-up screening’. Journal of General Internal Medicine: 2010, 25(suppl. 1), p. 11–17.

When a patient has screened positive for risky drinking, up pops a computerised prompt to remind the clinician to consider counselling. In one service for US ex-military personnel, this resulted in nearly three quarters of patients being counselled and a hint of consequentially reduced drinking; at another, findings were negative. Why the difference?