Objectives: To determine whether an effective telephone callback system can be successfully implemented in a busy ED and to quantify the benefits that can be obtained related to the follow-up care of elder patients.
Methods: This was a prospective, cohort study conducted at a community teaching hospital during a 6-month period. Consecutive patients ≥60 years old and released from the ED were selected for telephone follow-up. Calls were made by a research nurse within 72 hours after the patient's ED visit. Follow-up information included current medical status, problems encountered during the ED visit, compliance, and impact of the illness on self-care capabilities.
Results: Seventy-nine percent (831/1,048) of the patients selected for telephone follow-up were successfully contacted. The calls lasted an average of 4 ± 2.5 minutes. Although 94% (778/831) of these patients had a regular physician, 14% failed to make their recommended follow-up arrangements. Compliance was significantly improved when a follow-up physician was contacted during the patient's ED visit. Approximately 96% of the patients were either satisfied or very satisfied with their ED care. However, 13% (109/831) had moderate deterioration in their ability to care for themselves. Of the patients contacted, 333 (40%) required further clarification of their home care instructions, 31 were advised to return to the ED for reevaluation, and 26 were referred to a medical social worker for psychosocial concerns.
Conclusion: A telephone callback system is a feasible and effective method to improve follow-up care of elder patients released from the ED.