How much should hospital physicians intervene?

Two new studies suggest that physician intervention could help patients in their lifestyle habits.

For example, mandatory physician reporting of medically unfit drivers could reduce road crashes that lead to emergency department (ED) visits, according to a Stanford University Medical Center study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The data suggest that practicing physicians may be able to help prevent serious trauma from road crashes," the authors said in a statement.

Researchers looked at more than 100,000 patients in Ontario, Canada, who received medical warnings from physicians from 2006 to 2010 and found the risk of road crashes resulting in ED visits dropped 45 percent in the year post-warnings.

However, such physician intervention could worsen mood disorders and hurt doctor-patient relationships, as the ED saw more visits for depression after patients received medical warnings not to drive, the study noted. The patients also saw their physicians less frequently.

The findings could apply to EDs in six states, including California, that require physicians to warn patients who are potentially unfit to drive, the study noted.

Meanwhile, doctor intervention could help curb harmful drinking by patients, according to research from the Yale School of Medicine. Emergency physicians that adhere to alcohol intervention best practices can effectively reduce patient drinking and improve overall patient health, study authors said.

For more:
- read the Stanford study abstract and statement
- here's the Yale announcement