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Ann Emerg Med. 2000 Jun;35(6):564-7.

Improving telephone contact rates of patients discharged from the emergency department.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY 12208, USA.



This study investigated the rate of incorrect contact telephone numbers recorded during emergency department registration, and evaluated whether postdischarge contact rates can be improved by verifying the best contact number with the patient before discharge.


A prospective study was conducted with convenience sampling at a tertiary care hospital with an annual census of 60,000. Patients older than 18 years were enrolled, and the "unverified" telephone numbers recorded at registration were entered on the data sheet. Patients were then asked, "What number can we reach you at to discuss lab or x-ray results?" These "verified" numbers and additional demographic data were entered on the data sheet. Within 1 week, 3 calls were made to both the unverified and the verified numbers. Calls were considered successful if the patient, a friend, family member, or coworker was reached, or if the patient returned a message left on an answering machine.


Four hundred eighteen patients (43% men) were enrolled; 72 (17%) patients provided a different best contact number than the one recorded on the chart. When unverified numbers were called, only 68.9% of patients were reachable, whereas when verified numbers were called, 81.8% of patients were contacted (P <.01). No statistical difference was found between patients who were successfully contacted and those who were not with regard to age, sex, race, or time of visit. Patients insured by health maintenance organizations were more likely to be reached (P =.02).


Verification of a best contact telephone number significantly improves the ability to contact patients after ED discharge.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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