Implementation of a Universal Screening Process for Substance Use in Pregnancy

Ulrich, Micah MD; Memmo, Elise Petersen LICSW, MPH; Cruz, Alissa MPH; Heinz, Alexandra LICSW, MPH; Iverson, Ronald E. MD, MPH Implementation of a Universal Screening Process for Substance Use in Pregnancy, Obstetrics & Gynecology: March 10, 2021 – Volume Latest Articles – Issue – 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004305 doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004305



To implement a standardized universal substance use screening process in an outpatient prenatal clinic at an urban tertiary care hospital.


Using a quality-improvement framework that involved process modeling, stakeholder analyses, and plan-do-study-act cycles, we implemented universal substance use screening for prenatal patients using a modified 5Ps screening tool (Parents, Peers, Partner, Past, Present). Implementation included an operational workflow based on the SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment) model. The primary outcome measure was percentage of patients who were screened for substance use, with a goal of 90% screened. Secondary outcome measures were percentage who screened positive and percentage of the time a positive screen resulted in documentation of a brief intervention by a health care practitioner.


Over a 19-month implementation period, 733 patient encounters were sampled. A substance use screen was completed in 618 (84%). We exceeded our goal of screening 90% of eligible patients for the final 6 months of data collection. Of the 618 completed screens, 124 (20%) screened positive. Health care practitioner documentation of brief interventions for patients with a positive screen reached 80% in the final phase of implementation, but then declined to 50% by the completion of the study period.


A sustainable and generalizable process to carry out substance use screening within a large prenatal practice is feasible, and assisted with identification of patients not known to be at risk. Further efforts are needed to evaluate how to sustain health care practitioner documentation of intervention in response to positive screens.

Implementation of a universal substance use screening process was feasible in an urban obstetrics practice and resulted in more than 90% of patients being screened for substance use.

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