Introduction to Screening

screening-instrument-slantedIn general, screening is the examination of a group of usually asymptomatic people to detect those with a high probability of having a given disease, typically by means of an inexpensive diagnostic test or simply some straightforward questions. Screening does not establish definitive information about diagnosis and possible treatment needs.

Screening for substance use is a quick, simple way to identify risky and harmful use of substances and respond in an appropriate and effective manner. In some relatively rare instances, screening may lead the physician to refer the patient for further assessment or treatment.

One goal of SBIRT is, therefore, to establish substance use screening as a part of usual care in order to identify patient issues that would not otherwise be noticed or would not be detected until much further along.

There are many validated tools that can be used to assist you to screen patients. These will be introduced in this module. In fact, you can screen a patient with as few as two, or even one, question.

Remember that how you ask these questions is as important as the screening tool you choose.