Doctors are well positioned to screen for domestic violence
DEAR DR. ROACH: Having recently changed doctors (due to a move), I filled out a new-patient intake. It had this question: “Do you feel safe in your home?” It seemed like a question that might evoke a response for a lot of possible issues that could make a person feel unsafe. I’m pleased to know that my new doctor cares about the safety of her patients, but what if a patient is not ready to divulge an unsafe situation, such as domestic violence? -- G.G.B.
ANSWER: Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, affects both women and men, but women are much, much more likely to be injured or killed by partner violence than men are. IPV can happen in any socioeconomic, ethnic or age group, and it can be very hard to diagnose. Physicians are in a good position to intervene, but we often do not ask and do not recognize the symptoms or physical signs of a person in an abusive relationship. I agree with routinely asking patients about IPV, and including these issues on a questionnaire (verbally, electronic or on paper) is a good way to screen for IPV. I am in the habit now of telling all new patients that I ask about partner violence since I have seen so many cases. Of course, the patient must be alone with his or her doctor when this is asked.
TOYOUR GOODHEALTH Keith Roach, M.D.