Medical specialists' views on the impact of reducing alcohol consumption on prognosis of, and risk of, hospital admission due to specific medical conditions: results from a Delphi survey

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Rationale, aims and objectivesTo find consensus, or lack thereof, on the impact of reducing alcohol consumption on prognosis and the risk of hospital admissions for a number of alcohol-attributable disorders.MethodsA modified two-round Delphi survey utilizing web-based questionnaires to collect quantitative and qualitative data was used. Alcohol treatment experts from cardiology, emergency medicine, gastroenterology and oncology in the United Kingdom were invited to participate. The main outcomes were median impact ratings (on a scale of 1–9) and consensus (unanimous, strong, moderate, weak or no consensus).ResultsOf 192 experts invited to participate, 59 completed first questionnaires. The overall retention rate to the second questionnaires was about 51% (30/59). There was strong support that reducing alcohol consumption could result in improvement in prognosis for gastroenterology and emergency medicine patients; but uncertainty on the benefits for cardiology and oncology patients. Overall, the responses from the expert panel did not reflect the assumption that reducing alcohol consumption would result in benefits on hospital admissions for any of the specialties. The specialists viewed the severity of disorders as important when considering the impact of reducing alcohol consumption.ConclusionsThe highest impact of treatment for problem drinking in hospitals is considered to be for alcohol-related disorders associated with gastroenterology and emergency medicine. At policy level, if targeted screening for alcohol problems by presenting disease or condition is the strategy of choice, it would be logical to implement screening and easily accessible interventions or addiction specialists within these areas where alcohol treatment is considered as having a high impact.

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