-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- Three of four domestic
violence victims treated in hospital emergency departments are not
identified as victims of abuse, a new study reveals.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
analyzed court, police and emergency department (ED) records from a
semi-rural county in Michigan between 1999 and 2002, and found that
80 percent of women who reported domestic assaults to police came
to an emergency department at least once during the four years
after the reported assault.
Most of the women sought ED care frequently, an average of seven
times each during the study period.
However, only 28 percent of the women were ever identified in
EDs as victims of domestic violence. The study authors speculated
that the reason for this is likely because most of their ED visits
were for medical complaints, not injuries associated with abuse.
Among these patients, only 3.8 percent of emergency visits were
reported to be mainly due to an assault.
Victims of domestic violence were four times more likely to be
identified if they went to the ED on the day of the assault. They
were also more likely to be identified if they were transported to
the hospital by police or if their chief complaints involved mental
health issues such as suicidal behavior or substance abuse issues
such as overdoses.
The study is to be published online this week in the
Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The findings highlight the need for emergency department staff
to screen women who don't appear to be at risk for domestic
violence, said the study authors.
"Emergency departments are a safety net for women with health issues of all kinds, but our study shows we're not doing a good enough job of assessing our patients' entire situation," Dr. Karin V. Rhodes, director of the division of emergency care policy research in the emergency medicine department, said in a university news release.
"There is no reason in the age of information technology that we should not provide routine screening and referrals to the social services patients can use to protect themselves from future violence," she added.
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