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Br J Gen Pract. 1992 May; 42(358): 190–193.
PMCID: PMC1372022

Evaluation of the use and usefulness of telephone consultations in one general practice.

Abstract

In one practice with 14,000 patients an advice line was set aside at designated times to enable patients to speak directly to a doctor on the telephone. The aim of this study was to determine who used the line, why they called, the conditions callers presented with, the action taken by the doctor and whether patients and doctors thought the service was a good idea. A total of 277 calls were made during the five month study period. Responses to a questionnaire were received from doctors for all 277 calls and from 152 patients. It was found that most calls lasted about three minutes. Most of the callers (59%) were known to the doctor taking the call. Users of the advice line were most likely to be women, married people and people with children. Equal numbers of calls were received about new and existing problems. The most frequent reason for calling was to obtain the result of a test (21% of calls). The most frequent diagnosis by the doctors was chronic complaints for which the patient was already receiving treatment (19%). The data from patients and doctors were similar. In 30% of cases callers were advised to take medicine, mostly a prescription to be collected (16%), while a few callers received a home visit (7%). Doctors thought they provided reassurance in 26% of cases while callers thought they had received reassurance in 43% of cases. If the advice line had not been available three quarters of the respondents would have made an appointment and 13% would have asked the doctor to make a home visit.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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