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Med J Aust. 1998 Aug 3;169(3):143-6.

Emergency department telephone advice.

Author information

1
Swan District Hospital, Middle Swan, Perth, WA. daniel.fatovich@health.wa.gov.au

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate telephone advice given in an emergency department.

DESIGN:

Prospective, observational study.

SETTING:

A community-based emergency department in a semi-rural/outer metropolitan setting, between August and November 1995.

PARTICIPANTS:

All people telephoning the emergency department for medical advice.

METHODS:

Details of all calls, callers and patients were recorded. Within 72 hours, a follow-up call was initiated seeking replies to a series of standardised questions.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Number, timing and duration of calls; appropriateness of the advice given; compliance with the advice; and callers' satisfaction with the service.

RESULTS:

Over the four-month period, 1682 calls were received, 58% between 4pm and midnight. There were 33 telephone calls per 100 emergency department attendances. The mean call duration was 3.9 minutes (range, 0.25-25 minutes); 49% of patients were less than 14 years old, and 72% of callers phoned because of spontaneous illness. The advice given was considered inappropriate in only 1.4% of calls. Follow-up calls were made to 1132 people (67%), revealing a non-compliance rate of only 6.9% and a high level of caller satisfaction, with 99% of callers affirming a need for such a service.

CONCLUSIONS:

The provision of telephone advice by emergency department staff is rated highly by the community and compliance with the advice is strong. Paediatric problems, arising as a result of spontaneous illness, predominate and there is a large bias towards after-hours use of the service. Experienced staff provide better advice.

PMID:
9734510
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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