Inside Health Care Episode #008: Do Doctors Ask Patients, “How Much Do You Drink?”

July 26, 2018 · NCQA Communications

Doctors Asking PatientsExcessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death, but when it comes to screening for alcohol use and providing the right follow-up care, there is large gap in care.

The National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) researched this issue and found a shortage of screening for misuse of alcohol. But when screenings do take place – like when doctors ask their patients about their drinking habits – we found many patients who need help are not identified or followed-up with appropriately. However there are strategies, such as the routine use of recommended screening tools to improve and ensure that health systems and providers are equipped to help.

Strengthening Alcohol Screening and Follow Up

NCQA and FEi Systems, with funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), developed a new measure for alcohol screening and follow-up. The Unhealthy Alcohol Use Screening and Follow-Up (ASF) measure is part of the Health Effectiveness Data Information Set 2018 (HEDIS®).  It is the first measure to evaluate unhealthy alcohol use screening and follow-up care for adults in the health plan population. It is also one of the first HEDIS measures to be reported using electronic clinical data collected at the point of care.

We think this is important because measurement leads to improvement.

Listen to the Podcast!

Want to learn more? Patricia B. Santora, PhD, Public Health Analyst at SAMHSA,  Lela R. McKnight-Eily, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist/Epidemiologist at the CDC and  Junqing Liu, Research Scientist at NCQA joined us for a podcast to explain the problems of alcohol abuse, the consequences and how this ASF measure will make a difference.  Take a listen and let us know what you think!

The ASF Learning Collaborative

One more thing…with funding from SAMHSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through FEi Systems, NCQA is forming the ASF Learning Collaborative, a quality improvement learning collaborative of health plans to work on adding this measure to their quality performance matrix.

Following the model of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s quality improvement, the ASF Learning Collaborative will help collect and share data on screening and follow-up approaches plans use to improve the management of alcohol misuse.

Sign up Here

This Learning Collaborative will include bimonthly sharing and coaching webinars with other participating health plans and in-person meetings where health plans will share experiences. More information can be found on the Collaborative’s web page. If you are interested in joining the Collaborative, contact our team at

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