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J Rural Health. 1993 Summer;9(3):240-5.

The benefits of telephone-access medical consultation.

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West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown 26506.


A major disadvantage of rural medical practice is the limited reserve of consultative options. To determine the perceived clinical utility and educational impact of the West Virginia University Medical Access and Referral System (MARS), a 24-hour prompt telephone-consultation service, a mailed questionnaire was administered to 303 West Virginia clinicians who had used MARS for infectious disease problems. The overall questionnaire response rate was 62 percent. Callers included family practitioners (35%), medical specialists (32%), surgical specialists (13%), pediatricians (11%), obstetricians (5%), and nonphysicians (4%). Major referral questions posed were therapeutic (60%), diagnostic (48%), and epidemiologic (10%) in nature. On a scale of 1 (not useful) to 5 (very useful), survey responders rated the overall clinical usefulness of MARS as either a 4 (22%) or 5 (76%). Callers felt that MARS consultation assisted in accurate case diagnosis in 80 percent of cases, and aided in successful therapeutic management of 96 percent of cases. An educational benefit was reported by 96 percent of responders. Physicians located in more rural, underserved areas tended to use MARS to a greater degree than colleagues in more populated, medically accessible areas (P < 0.005). These findings suggest that an academic telephone-access consultation program can be a clinically relevant and educational consultative tool for practicing clinicians, especially those located in rural areas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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