Out-of-hours primary care: a population-based study of the diagnostic scope of telephone contacts
SourceFamily Practice, 33, 5, (2016), pp. 504-509
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectRadboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
BACKGROUND: GPs answer all patient calls to the out-of-hours primary care (OOH-PC) services in Denmark. Knowledge is scarce on how the triage-GPs act on the specific reasons for encounter (RFE). OBJECTIVE: This study aims to describe the RFEs, the applied diagnoses and the severity of health problems presented in calls to the OOH-PC. METHODS: This was a 1-year cross-sectional study based on IT-integrated pop-up questionnaires addressing patients' health problems. We included only telephone contacts that were categorized according to their triage outcome as telephone consultations, direct admissions to hospital or referrals for face-to-face contact. The GP-assessed severity was calculated for age groups and types of outcome. We identified the 20 most frequent primary RFEs and diagnoses for each type of contact termination. RESULTS: We included 7810 telephone calls. Calls considered non-severe made up two-thirds of the calls terminated as telephone consultations, whereas calls considered potentially severe made up the main part of referrals (52.3%). Overall, the 20 most frequent RFEs accounted for 45.2% of all RFEs, fever being the most frequent (10.0%). Some RFEs were terminated mostly as telephone consultations [e.g. insect bite/sting (75.9%)], whereas others were most often referred for a face-to-face contact [i.e. dyspnoea (79.1%)] or directly to hospital [i.e. chest pain (29.4%)]. CONCLUSION: The distribution of the RFEs on triage outcomes, dominated by more severe diagnoses in referrals indicates a suitable referral level. However, future research on factors related to the demanding task of telephone triage is highly relevant for postdoctoral training of GPs.
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