New York-based Northwell Health has received $1.4 million from the federal government to develop a first-of-its-kind universal screening process for identifying patients at risk of injury or death from firearms.
The effort is part of the health system's "We Ask Everyone About Guns" research study, which views gun violence as a public health threat. The health system wants to find evidence-based solutions that can reduce firearms' impact on health, comparing the effort to similar campaigns against motor vehicle accidents and tobacco use.
Three Northwell hospitals located in at-risk communities for gun violence are project test sites. The National Institutes of Health-funded study is being conducted by the health system's Center for Gun Violence Prevention. The center was launched in February to develop effective strategies clinicians can use to counsel patients on gun safety.
Previous efforts to screen patients for firearm injury risk have mostly focused on more targeted approaches. But those may have missed opportunities to identify people at risk who were in the emergency department for other issues.
The project will largely focus on developing a screening process for all patients who come to the emergency department. Clinicians will ask patients specific questions about having firearms in their homes and assess their level of risk. Data collected from each interview will be included in the patient's electronic health record.
Northwell established a similar program in 2018 to universally screen patients for their risk of substance use disorder. Since its launch, the health system's Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment program has completed 1.5 million patient screens across 18 emergency departments resulting in 23,000 brief interventions and 8,000 referrals to treatment services.
"As we have seen with SBIRT, we can make a difference for our communities by asking the right questions and providing the right education and connections to treatment," said Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, assistant vice president of addiction services for the Northwell Health Emergency Medicine Services and director of the SBIRT program, in a statement.
More than 39,000 people died from firearm injuries in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent figures.
In 2019, Northwell launched national marketing campaign to call on healthcare providers to do more to lobby lawmakers to take action on gun control legislation.