While about three-fourths of individuals reporting domestic violence incidents to police do seek healthcare assistance in emergency departments, many are never identified as being victims of abuse during their hospital visits, reports a University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study.
These encounters represent missed opportunities to provide interventions and assistance to these victims, the researchers say in the online study published in this week's Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The researchers found that intimate partner violence was more likely to be identified when an ED visit occurred on the day of the police incident (assaults were four times more likely to be revealed at this point) and when patients were transported to the hospital by police. Providers also were more likely to identify abuse among those patients whose top complaints involved mental health or substance abuse issues, such as suicidal behavior or overdoses.
When abuse was identified, data showed that the ED staff provided legally useful notes in patients' charts 86 percent of the time, and they communicated with police half the time. However, fewer than 35 percent of cases in which abuse victims were identified contained documented assessments on whether the patients had a safe place to go following discharge from the hospital. In addition, referrals of victims to community-based domestic violence resources occurred only 25 percent of the time.
Since healthcare workers have limited resources to devote to interventions for domestic violence, the researchers suggested that a cross-systems approach could be taken. Among those strategies are the use of confidential patient portals in which patients use the Internet to link to their medical records and communicate with their providers.
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