01:03pm Tuesday 07 July 2020

New app for doctors to help curb alcoholism

soft drinks

The innovation, which received funding as part of the inaugural VicHealth Innovation Challenge: Alcohol to curb the drinking culture among young people, will be piloted in three Victorian emergency departments (ED) including Monash Health, St Vincent’s and a Victorian regional hospital.

The projectEnough is Enough: Emergency Department Clinicians Action on Reducing Alcohol Harm’  is a collaboration between Monash University, Monash Health, the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and Hello Sunday Morning.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the VicHealth Innovation Challenge: Alcohol would work with entrepreneurs, non-for-profits, change-makers and universities to generate new ideas to reduce the amount Victorians drink.

“As far as I am aware this is an international first for a university, tech start up and college to collaborate on an innovative digital solution to a major health care problem,” Mr Rechter said.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton, Department of Medicine at Monash University and School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health said the intervention program aimed to reduce alcohol harm in Victoria and the number of people admitted to emergency departments.

“This project will develop a smart phone app to allow emergency department clinicians to identify hazardous drinkers and offer them a Brief Intervention (BI) and referral to appropriate follow up services,” Associate Professor  Egerton-Warburton said.

Clinicians will screen for harmful drinking on their smartphones, using the World Health Organization’s Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Tool (AUDIT), and where appropriate, follow with a referral to HelloSundayMorning.org to reduce their alcohol consumption.

As Victoria’s largest health network, Monash Health ED admits 150,000 adults and adolescents every year.

“We estimate that 10 per cent of emergency cases attend as the result of harmful drinking and half of the cases have engaged in risky drinking,” Associate Professor Egerton-Warburton said.

“We plan to develop a Brief Intervention that is feasible for busy emergency service clinicians to reduce alcohol harm in Victoria and reduce emergency department representation rates.”

A snapshot survey taken at  97 EDs across Australia and 17 emergency departments across New Zealand in December 2014 revealed that one in eight patients attended as a result of the harmful use of alcohol.  In some areas as many as half the patients were in the ED because of alcohol.

Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy, said the VicHealth Innovation Challenge: Alcohol was a great example of Victoria leading the way in encouraging a better drinking culture in Australia.

“The culture of drinking in Australia is beginning to change but many are still drinking alcohol at levels that put them at risk of short and long-term harm,” Mr Hennessy said.

Director of Turning Point and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University, Dan Lubman, said the culture of excessive drinking was a major community concern, particularly among young people.

“Injuries, accidents and assaults as a result of drinking to excess continue to be a major cause for community concern, with our research and what we see on the frontline highlighting the need for us all to reconsider Australia’s current drinking culture,” Mr Lubman said.

“VicHealth and their partners are to be congratulated for their innovation and commitment to tackling alcohol-related harms. Only by working together can we really develop a Victoria that has a more healthy relationship with alcohol.”

Monash University

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