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Telephone follow-up in primary care: can interactive voice response calls work?

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School of Health Professions, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA.


Follow-up calls after ambulatory visits are not routinely done, yet they can potentially detect and mitigate unresolved problems. Automated calls via an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) are an innovative way to conduct follow-up, but patients' attitudes toward follow-up calls are unknown. This study assessed 1) patient perceptions about follow-up calls after visits; 2) differences in perceptions between human and IVRS calls; and 3) association between follow-up calls and patient satisfaction with care. Post-visit follow-up calls in two ambulatory care setting were done in two phases. Phase 1 used a human caller and phase 2 used IVRS. Patient satisfaction questionnaires were completed after each phase. Results showed that 88% of patients favor the idea of the calls and those receiving them found them helpful. There were no differences in attitudes between patients receiving calls from clinic staff or from an IVRS. Patients receiving calls had higher patient satisfaction scores than those not called.


Patients value follow-up calls and they are associated with patient satisfaction with care. IVRS is an innovative way to conduct post-visit follow-up.

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