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Telephone consultation in primary care: A retrospective two-year observational analysis of a public healthcare system

Francisco Gonzalez (Service of Ophthalmology, Complejo Hospitalario, Universitario of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain) (Health Research Institute of Santiago de Compostela (IDIS), Santiago de Compostela, Spain) (CIMUS, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Blanca Cimadevila (Galician Health Service, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Julio Garcia-Comesaña (Integrated Care Organization of Vigo (Galician Health Service), Vigo Spain)
Susana Cerqueiro (Galician Health Service, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Eladio Andion (Galician Health Service, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Jorge Prado (Galician Health Service, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Jorge Bermudez (Galician Health Service, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Felix Rubial (Integrated Care Organization of Vigo (Galician Health Service), Vigo Spain)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 26 March 2018

Issue publication date: 6 April 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze a teleconsultation modality based on a simple telephone call, using either landline or mobile phone, made available to more than two million people. Telecommunication systems are an increasingly common feature in modern healthcare. However, making teleconsultations available to the entire population covered by a public health system is a challenging goal.

Design/methodology/approach

This retrospective longitudinal observational study analyzed how this modality was used at the primary care level in Galicia, a region in the Northwest of Spain, in 2014 and 2015, focusing on demand, gender and age preferences, rural vs urban population and efficiency.

Findings

Of 28,472,852 consultations requested in this period, 9.0 percent were telephone consultations. Women requested more telephone consultations (9.9 percent of total consultations) than men (7.7 percent of total consultations). The highest demand occurred for the over 85 age group for both men and women. In both years, 2014 and 2015, the number of telephone consultations per inhabitant was higher in urban (0.53 and 0.69) than in rural areas (0.34 and 0.47). In 10.9 percent of cases, the telephone consultations required further face-to-face consultation.

Originality/value

Conventional voice telephone calls can efficiently replace conventional face-to-face consultations in primary healthcare in roughly 10 percent of cases. Women are more likely than men to use primary care services in both face-to-face and telephone consultation modalities. Public healthcare systems should consider implementing telephone consultations to deliver their services.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was partially supported by the government research funding agencies of Xunta de Galicia, Spain, (Grant Numbers ED431C-2016-025, ED341D-R2016-032) and Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Grant Number RD16/0008/0003) co-funded by FEDER. We are thankful to GPs, Melquisedec Ameneiro Noya, Carlos Castiñeira Pombo, Angel Martínez-Puga López, Juan Carlos Calvo Fernández, Xoan Casas Rodrigues, Elena Lorenzo Llauger, and Sergio Rodríguez González, and also to Ana Isabel Calvo Pérez, Josefa Fernández Segade and Eugenia Victoria Miguez Mayo. All of them participated in an initial pilot study that preceded the full implementation of the teleconsultation procedure described here.

Citation

Gonzalez, F., Cimadevila, B., Garcia-Comesaña, J., Cerqueiro, S., Andion, E., Prado, J., Bermudez, J. and Rubial, F. (2018), "Telephone consultation in primary care: A retrospective two-year observational analysis of a public healthcare system", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 321-337. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-08-2017-0201

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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