Call-duration and triage decisions in out of hours cooperatives with and without the use of an expert system

Ong, R. S. G., Post, J., van Rooij, H. & de Haan, J., 13-Feb-2008, In : BMC Family Practice. 9, 6 p., 11.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  • Rob S. G. Ong
  • Johan Post
  • Harry van Rooij
  • Jan de Haan

Background: Cooperatives delivering out of hours care in the Netherlands are hesitant about the use of expert systems during triage. Apart from the extra costs, cooperatives are not sure that quality of triage is sufficiently enhanced by these systems and believe that call duration will be prolonged drastically. No figures about the influence of the use of an expert system during triage on call duration and triage decisions in out of hours care in the Netherlands are available.

Methods: Electronically registered data concerning call duration and triage decisions were collected in two cooperatives. One in Tilburg, a cooperative in a Southern city of the Netherlands using an expert system, and one in Groningen, a cooperative in a Northern city not using an expert system. Some other relevant information about the care process was collected additionally. Data about call duration was compared using an independent sample t-test. Data about call decisions was compared using Chi Square.

Results: The mean call time in the cooperative using the TAS expert system is 4.6 minutes, in the cooperative not using the expert system 3.9 minutes. A significant difference of 0.7 minutes (0.4-1.0, 95% CI) minutes. In the cooperative with an expert system a larger percentage of patients is handled by the assistant, patients are less often referred to a telephone consultation with the GP and are less likely to be offered a visit by the GP.

A quick interpretation of the impact of the difference in triage decisions, show that these may be large enough to support the hypothesis that longer call duration is compensated for by less contacts with the GP (by telephone or face-to-face). There is no proof, however, that these differences are caused by the use of the triage system. The larger amount of calls handled by the assistant may be partly caused by the fact that the assistants in the cooperative with an expert system more often consult the GP during triage. And it is not likely that the larger amount of home visits in Groningen can be attributed to the absence of an expert system. The expert system only offers advice whether a GP should be seen, not in which way (by consultation in the office or by home visit).

Conclusion: The differences in call times between a cooperative using an expert system and a cooperative not using an expert system are small; 0.4-1.0 min. Differences in triage decisions were found, but it is not proven that these can be contributed to the use of an expert system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Number of pages6
JournalBMC Family Practice
Publication statusPublished - 13-Feb-2008



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