Objective: To characterize the pattern, content, and management of after-hours telephone interactions between obstetrician-gynecologists and patients.
Methods: In a prospective observational study, 12 resident and nine private physicians practicing obstetrics and gynecology completed data cards for after-hours telephone interactions with patients. Chief complaints were categorized as related to either women's health or primary care and on whether women were pregnant, postpartum, or not pregnant. Triage dispositions (evaluate now, office follow-up, or home care) were compared between groups. Women also were asked what they would have done if they had been unable to contact their physicians by telephone.
Results: One hundred ninety-two of 276 calls evaluated (69. 6%) were from pregnant women, 20 (7.2%) were from postpartum women, and 64 (23.3%) were from nonpregnant women. Calls were related to primary care health issues in 24.1% (n = 45) of pregnant women, 40% (n = 8) of postpartum women, and 28.1% (n = 18) of nonpregnant women. There were no differences between residents and private physicians in the proportion of women triaged to immediate evaluation for pregnancy (35.1% [n = 40] versus 41.9% [n = 31], P =.74) or postpartum (11.1% [n = 1] versus 10% [n = 1],P =.96) problems. Among 139 women triaged to office follow-up, 41% (n = 57) would have come to the hospital for emergency evaluation if they had been unable to reach their physicians.
Conclusion: Resident and private obstetrician-gynecologists provide primary care and women's health care advice during after-hours telephone calls from patients. More than one third of after-hours telephone calls from pregnant women are triaged to immediate evaluation.