Screening for Domestic Violence in Health Care Settings. Next Steps

08/01/2013

The implementation of the Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines—and the release of the 2013 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation—create new opportunities for identifying women experiencing IPV through the increased use of screening by health care providers. The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence, funded by HHS, has produced materials to explain the importance of IPV screening to health care providers in an effort to increase screening use.

Additional research could help policy makers and practitioners understand more fully how IPV screening and counseling can most effectively contribute to positive health outcomes. Several areas of research could be particularly helpful. First, evidence is needed to identify effective screening and assessment tools and the best methods of administration. The theoretical basis for improving health outcomes through screening starts when the patient discloses abuse to the clinician, so research to determine what types of questions and methods of inquiry enable patients to feel comfortable enough to discuss abuse would be useful. In addition, further study of the use of electronic health records and prompts could provide valuable information about how to effectively integrate screening into clinicians’ usual routine.

Further, the field could benefit from well-conducted research identifying effective ways of making referrals and of facilitating patients’ connection to services. Since additional services may be required to reduce a patients’ exposure to violence, it is essential for clinicians to make referrals in a way that results in patient follow-through and use of the services.

Finally, research is needed to develop and evaluate effective post-screening interventions. Intimate partner violence has real short and long term direct and indirect negative consequences for physical and mental health. Screening for intimate partner violence has potential to improve health outcomes for women especially when tied to effective and evidence-based interventions that help women prevent or reduce their exposure to violence, when possible. Further research is needed to identify these interventions and the strategies clinicians can use to connect their patients with these interventions.

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