Telephone consultation and triage

Added June 16, 2020

Citation: Bunn F, Byrne G, Kendall S. Telephone consultation and triage: effects on health care use and patient satisfaction. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004;3:CD004180.

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic is placing a strain on healthcare services and resources. Existing research on strategies that might ease this, such as telephone consultation and triage services, might provide useful information for policy makers.

In this Cochrane review, the authors searched for comparative effectiveness studies of telephone consultation or triage in a general healthcare setting. They did not restrict their searches by date, type or language of publication and did the most recent searches in July 2007 (when no new studies were found to add to those in the existing review). They included five randomized trials, one controlled clinical trial and three interrupted time series studies.

What works: In the studies available at the time of the review, telephone consultation and triage appeared to decrease the number of immediate visits to doctors and did not appear to increase hospital visits.

In the studies available at the time of the review, patients reported equivalent levels of satisfaction with telephone consultations as with face-to-face appointments.

What doesn’t work: Nothing noted.

What’s uncertain: In the studies available at the time of the review, it was uncertain whether the introduction of telephone consultations simply delayed visits to a later time.


Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the coronavirus (COVID-19) but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the basis of this summary alone.