The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and impact of a suicide risk screening program in a rural West Virginia primary care practice.
Patients presenting for routine and sick visits were asked to participate in electronic suicide risk screening using the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions tool; screen positive individuals were assessed with the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions Brief Suicide Safety Assessment. Screening program feasibility was evaluated by the proportion of patients consenting to participate, participant Ask Suicide-Screening Questions and Brief Suicide Safety Assessment completion rates, and response to a question asking whether primary care providers should ask about suicide. Screening impact was evaluated quasi-experimentally by comparing electronic medical record documentation of suicide risk screening, assessment, and risk determination in practice patients before and after implementing the screening program.
Over half of the patients approached agreed to participate in a research study about suicide (N = 196; 57.7%). Feasibility of the screening program was demonstrated by the high completion rates for the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (99.0%) and the Brief Suicide Safety Assessment (100.0%) among study participants. Additionally, 95.4% (N = 187) of participants agreed primary care providers should screen patients for suicide. Suicide screening rates rose significantly between the baseline and intervention phases (5.8% to 61.0%; X2 = 200.61, P < 0.001), as did suicide risk detection rates (0.7% to 6.2%; X2 = 12.58, P < 0.001).
Suicide risk screening was feasible and well accepted by adult patients in rural primary care and has potential to improve suicide risk detection in this setting.