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The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Under-triage in telephone consultation is related to non-normative symptom description and interpersonal communication: a mixed methods study

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BACKGROUND: Telephone consultation and triage are used to limit the workload on emergency departments. Lack of visual cues and clinical tests put telephone consultations to a disadvantage compared to face-to-face consultations increasing the risk of under-triage. Under-triage occurs in telephone triage; however why under-triage happens is not explored yet. The aim of the study was to describe situations of under-triage in context, to assess the quality of under-triaged calls, and to identify communication patterns contributing to under-triage in a regional OOH service in the capital region of Denmark.

METHODS: Explanatory simultaneous mixed method with thematic analysis and descriptive statistics was chosen. The study was carried out in an Out-Of-Hours service (OOH) in the Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen. Under-triage was defined as Potentially Under-Triaged Calls (PUTC) by specific criteria to an OOH Hotline, and identification by integration of three databases: Medical Hotline database, Emergency number database, including the Ambulance database, and electronic patient records. Distribution of PUTC were carried out using ICD-10 codes to identify diagnosis and main themes identified by qualitative analysis of audio recorded under-triaged calls. Study period was October 15(th) to November 30(th) 2014.

RESULTS: Three hundred twenty seven PUTC were identified, representing 0.04% of all calls (n = 937.056) to the OOH. Distribution of PUTC according to diagnoses was: digestive (24%), circulatory (19%), respiratory (15%) and all others (42%). Thematic analysis of the voice logs suggested that inadequate communication and non-normative symptom description contributed to under-triage.

DISCUSSION: The incidence of potentially under-triage is low (0.04%). However, the over-representation of digestive, circulatory, and respiratory diagnoses might suggest that under-triage is related to inadequate symptom description. We recommend that caller and call-handler collaborate systematically on problem identification and negotiate non-normative symptom description.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of under-triage is low (0.04%). However, the over-representation of digestive, circulatory, and respiratory diagnoses might suggest that under-triage is related to inadequate symptom description. We recommend that caller and call-handler collaborate systematically on problem identification and negotiate non-normative symptom description.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Volume25
Issue number1
Number of pages8
ISSN1757-7241
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Child, Child, Preschool, Communication, Denmark, Female, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Middle Aged, Quality of Health Care, Remote Consultation, Symptom Assessment, Telephone, Triage, Journal Article

ID: 52061145