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Telephone consultation and triage: effects on health care use and patient satisfaction

Bunn F, Byrne G, Kendall S
Published Online: 
21 January 2009

Visits to emergency departments and family doctors have increased. One possible way to decrease the demands is to provide telephone helplines, hotlines or consultations. People can speak with health care professionals, such as doctors and nurses, on the telephone and receive medical advice or a referral to an appropriate health service. Nine studies were found and analysed to determine whether telephone consultation was safe and effective. In general, at least half of the calls were handled by telephone only (without the need for face-to-face visits). It was found that telephone consultation appears to decrease the number of immediate visits to doctors and does not appear to increase visits to emergency departments. It is still unclear though, whether it is just delaying visits to a later time. Telephone consultation also appears to be safe and people were just as satisfied using the telephone as going to see someone face-to-face. There are still questions about its effectiveness and more research into the use, cost, safety and satisfaction of telephone consultation is needed.

This record should be cited as: 
Bunn F, Byrne G, Kendall S. Telephone consultation and triage: effects on health care use and patient satisfaction. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004180. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004180.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
15 February 2008