Does telephone triage delay significant medical treatment?: Advice nurse service vs on-call pediatricians

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Jul;157(7):635-41. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.157.7.635.


Background: Advice nurse call centers are used to ensure access to medical advice, thereby potentially reducing the costs of health services.

Objective: To determine if medical advice from advice nurses and on-call physicians delays significant medical treatment in a general pediatrics population.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: A university general pediatrics faculty practice.

Participants: Parents or guardians calling for after-hours advice regarding their children.Intervention After-hours medical advice calls were randomized at the time of the call to an advice nurse or an on-call pediatrician.

Main outcome measures: The proportion of callers who sought medical care not advised by the advice nurse or on-call pediatrician and the proportion who received unadvised significant care.

Results: There were 1182 advice calls: 566 in the pediatrician group and 616 in the advice nurse group. There were no significant differences in the types of telephone triage advice in the physician and advice nurse groups. There was no significant difference in the proportion of callers who sought unadvised care (108 [19.9%] in the physician group vs 110 [19.0%] in the advice nurse group) or in the proportion of callers who received unadvised significant care (23 [4.2%] in the physician group vs 25 [4.3%] in the advice nurse group).

Conclusions: The proportions of callers who sought unadvised medical care and who received unadvised significant care were not significantly different in the advice nurse and pediatrician groups. This suggests that advice nurses do not delay significant medical treatment when compared with pediatricians.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • After-Hours Care / methods
  • After-Hours Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Pediatric Nursing / methods*
  • Pediatric Nursing / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Sampling Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone*
  • Time Factors
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States