Objective To assess the quality of the content of reports of telephone consultations at out-of-hours centres and to investigate to what extent the reports reflect the actual telephone consultation.
Design and setting Cross-sectional qualitative study; 17 out-of-hours centres in The Netherlands.
Method To assess the quality of the content of reports, a focus group developed the Reason for calling, Information gathered, Care advice given, Evaluation of the care advice with the patient (RICE) report rating instrument. Telephone Incognito Standardised Patients presented seven different clinical problems three times to 17 out-of-hours centres. All calls were recorded and transcribed. The out-of-hours centres being called were asked for a copy of the report of the call. The authors assessed the quality of the content of the reports and compared this with the transcripts.
Results The out-of-hours centres returned a report for 78% of the 357 calls. For the remaining 22% of the calls, no report was written. Reports contained almost always information about the medical reason for calling but little information about details of the clinical history. Patients' expectation, personal situation or perception of the care advice was seldom documented. In all but one out-of-hours centre, answers to obligatory questions were reported by triagists, although they had not been asked, varying between 1% and 54% of all questions entered. Triagists entered a subjective evaluation of a patients' condition in 12% of the reports.
Conclusion Reports of telephone consultations of out-of-hours centres contained little information on patients' clinical and personal condition. This could potentially endanger patients' continuity of care and might pose legal consequences for the triagist.
- Medical records
- quality indicators
- primary care
- patient safety
- quality of care
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Funding DoH Methodology Research Programme c/o Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Birmingham. The research was funded by CZ and VGZ, Health Insurance Companies in The Netherlands.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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