Rheumatology telephone helplines: Patient and health professionals requirements
Brown, S., McCabe, C., Hewlett, S., McDowell, J., Cushnaghan, J., Breslin, A., Stafford, S. and Carmichael, C. (2006) Rheumatology telephone helplines: Patient and health professionals requirements. Musculoskeletal Care, 4 (1). pp. 24-37. ISSN 1478-2189
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/msc.20
Objectives: The aim of this study was to ascertain patients' and health professionals' requirements from a rheumatology helpline and how such a service should be delivered. Methods: Self-completed questionnaires were administered to both users of rheumatology helplines, patients and health professionals (HPs), and providers of rheumatology services at five UK NHS trusts. Additional data were sought from experts in the field. Information was elicited on access to the service, preferred waiting time for response to a call, acceptability of an answerphone and choice of HP responding. Quantitative data were analysed using percentages and Chi-squared tests. Open questions were analysed as free text responses, and organized into clusters of themes. Results: A total of 607 questionnaires were returned, 523 from users (411 patients, 112 health professionals) and 84 from providers. There were no significant differences across the five Trusts. The top six reasons for patients contacting the helpline were: advice on changes in condition, drug information, understanding symptoms, blood results, information on diagnosis, and appointment queries. All groups recommended a return call on the same day and were happy to leave an answerphone message. HP users requested additional access via e-mail and fax. Rheumatology practitioners were deemed the most appropriate personnel to staff a helpline. Conclusions: The findings of this study have contributed a valuable insight into the essential components of a rheumatology helpline service from a user and provider perspective. These data will add to existing recommendations for the management of a rheumatology helpline service and ultimately contribute to a proposal for national guidelines.