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N Z Med J. 2003 Jul 11;116(1177):U495.

A telephone advice line does not decrease the number of presentations to Christchurch Emergency Department, but does decrease the number of phone callers seeking advice.

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Emergency Department, Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.



To describe the effect of a pilot national telephone advice service (Healthline) on a public hospital emergency department.


We prospectively gathered information from the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department (ED) computer- and non-computer-based information systems, for a six-month period during the operation of Healthline. We compared the data with five earlier periods when Healthline was not running. In addition, Healthline collected and analysed data from call log information.


There was a small increase (1.1%) in ED attendance during the study period. Patients referred by Healthline had a similar triage distribution to the general ED population, but a lower admission rate (29% vs 47%). Telephone calls to the ED dropped dramatically during the study period.


Healthline had little effect on overall ED census and appeared to refer patients with similar acuity to the general ED census. It decreased the workload for ED nursing staff charged with answering advice calls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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