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Pediatrics. 2000 Jul;106(1 Pt 2):226-30.

Reducing after-hours referrals by an after-hours call center with second-level physician triage.

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Department of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado, USA.



One-third of practices signing-out to The Children's Hospital Call Center in Denver, Colorado, choose to do second-level physician (SLP) triage for calls judged by the Center to require after-hours referral (AHR). We examined: 1) the effect of SLP triage on the rate of AHRs and 2) reasons for physicians' decisions.


From January 1998 to August 1998 all calls from patients using a 5-member suburban pediatric practice judged by the Call Center to require AHR were referred to the practice's on-call physician who did SLP triage and completed a questionnaire.


There were 955 eligible calls, 22% (N = 216) of which were initially given an urgent disposition by Call Center nurses. Physician questionnaires were completed for 97% (N = 209). Of patients initially triaged for AHR, 49% (N = 103) were subsequently given an AHR, 17% (N = 35) a next day office referral, and 34% (N = 71) home care and advice. Reasons for not urgently referring included the following: 1) medical problem didn't require urgent evaluation (95%, N = 99); 2) change in the patient's condition; (40% N = 43); 3) prior knowledge of family's ability to evaluate and care for the patient (40%, N = 43); and 4) knowledge of the patient's medical history (18%, N = 19). After SLP triage the overall urgent referral rate was 11%.


Signing out to a Call Center decreased physicians' after-hours calls by 77% and SLP triage halved the number of urgent after-hours referrals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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