WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Electronic medical records might help doctors identify men and women most likely to be victims of domestic abuse, and perhaps some day other medical conditions, too, researchers said on Tuesday.
Their report, published in the British Medical Journal, found women who showed up in emergency rooms with injuries, poisoning, and alcoholism were also later likely to report domestic abuse.
For men, those treated for mental health conditions such as depression and psychosis were the most likely to later also be diagnosed as domestic abuse victims.
“With increasing amounts of data becoming available, this work has the potential to bring closer the vision of predictive medicine, where vast quantities of information are used to predict individuals’ future medical risks in order to improve medical care and diagnosis,” Dr. Ben Reis of Children’s Hospital Boston and colleagues wrote.
The record systems might spot patterns that a busy doctor would miss, Reis said.
“Doctors typically do not have the time to thoroughly review a patient’s historical records during the brief clinical encounter,” Reis said in a statement.
“As a result, certain conditions that could otherwise be detected are often missed. One such condition is domestic abuse, which may go unrecognized for years as it is masked by acute complaints that form the basis of clinical encounters.”
His team analyzed medical records from more than 500,000 patients over age 18 — all with their identities protected.
They developed a scoring system to predict later diagnoses of domestic abuse, and found they could have predicted which patients would later report abuse as long as 30 months ahead of time.
It is not a trivial problem, they noted.
“Domestic abuse is the most common cause of non-fatal injury to women in the United States and accounts for more than half the murders of women every year,” they wrote.
“It affects women and men and involves up to 16 percent of U.S. couples a year, with estimates of lifetime prevalence as high as 54 percent and lifetime risk of injury as high as 22 percent.”
Editing by Cynthia Osterman