Most PCPs Do Not Feel Comfortable Screening for Firearm Safety

Furthermore, most patients do not answer firearm screening-related questions
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THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Only a minority of internal medicine (IM) providers report feeling comfortable conducting routine firearm safety screening, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Joseph Ladines-Lim, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues surveyed IM outpatient providers (109 respondents) and retrospectively reviewed charts for new patients' health maintenance exam (HME) documentation (501 charts) for routine previsit questionnaires containing firearm screening.

The researchers found that 32 percent of providers were unaware of the previsit screening question and 89 percent had no related training. Self-reported practice, comfort, and perceived importance of the issue varied among respondents. During HME visits, 61 percent of providers reported sometimes or never addressing firearm safety and only 36 percent felt comfortable doing so. Most respondents said they felt more likely to address the issue in patients with mental illness and substance use disorder. Only 44 percent of patients answered the screening question, with 26 percent of these respondents reporting firearms at home. Of those with firearms, 30 percent had a psychiatric history and 9 percent had a substance use disorder history.

"Our findings suggest there's a lot of ambivalence from providers about asking their patients about firearms during the course of a routine visit," Ladines-Lim said in a statement. "A decent number want to address it, but an almost equal number don't think it's something for them to address. However, there is a consensus about addressing it with those at higher risk, but we also found a lot of providers did not feel well-trained to discuss this issue."

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