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Electronic Screening and Brief Intervention Reduce Excessive Alcohol Use

A finger touching the screen of a tablet computerThe Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) as an effective intervention to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems, based on strong evidence of effectiveness. The systematic review and Task Force finding for e-SBI are included in the November 2016 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and can be accessed online through The Community Guide:

What Is Electronic Screening and Brief Intervention (e-SBI) for Excessive Alcohol Use?

Traditional screening and brief intervention (SBI) to reduce excessive alcohol consumption consists of assessing patients’ drinking patterns, followed by providing those who screen positive for excessive drinking with face-to-face feedback about its risks, and a short conversation about changing their drinking patterns, including referral to treatment if appropriate.

Electronic screening and brief intervention to reduce excessive alcohol consumption uses electronic devices (e.g., computers, telephones, or mobile devices) to facilitate delivery of key elements of traditional SBI. At a minimum, e-SBI involves screening individuals for excessive drinking, and delivering a brief intervention, which provides personalized feedback about the risks and consequences of excessive drinking.

Why is This Important?

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths each year (Stahre et al., 2014) and $249 billion in economic costs in 2010 (Sacks et al., 2015). Drinking too much is also a risk factor for many health and social problems, including motor-vehicle crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Excessive alcohol use is too rarely addressed with patients by their clinical care providers (Yanall et al., 2003; Spandorfer et al., 1999; Rush et al., 1995), yet e-SBI can help identify individuals who are binge drinkers and reduce potential barriers to doing so. e-SBI has the potential to be cost-saving, requires less provider time and training than traditional SBI, and does not have to occur in the clinical setting. These factors make it easier to implement and sustain the clinical preventive service to screen and intervene to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

For More Information

What are the Task Force and The Community Guide?

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Task Force members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.


Rush BR, Powell LY, Crowe TG, Ellis K. Early intervention for alcohol use: family physicians' motivations and perceived barriers. Canadian Med Assoc J - Journal de l'Association Medicale Canadienne 1995;152(6):863-9.

Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD. 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Am J Prev Med 2015; 49(5):e73–9.

Spandorfer JM, Israel Y, Turner BJ. Primary care physicians' views on screening and management of alcohol abuse: inconsistencies with national guidelines. J Fam Prac 1999;48(11):899-902.

Stahre M, Roeber J, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Zhang X. Contribution of excessive alcohol consumption to deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States External Web Site Icon. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130293.

Yanall KS, Pollak KI, Ostbye T, Krause KM, Michener JL. Primary care: is there enough time for prevention? Am J Pub Health 2003;93(4):635-41.