Introduction: Patients with minor anorectal conditions are frequently reviewed at an 8-week out-patient appointment (OPA). This study was designed to assess whether telephone follow-up could reduce OPA numbers whilst maintaining patient satisfaction.
Patients and methods: Over an 11-month period, 46 patients (23 male) underwent banding of haemorrhoids and 14 were prescribed medical treatment for fissure-in-ano (3 male). All were telephoned at 6 weeks and were offered an 8-week OPA if they had continuing problems. Patients were telephoned at a later date by a member of the hospital's patient panel to assess satisfaction.
Results: Overall, 88% were contacted at 6 weeks, 60% at the first attempt; 40% required two or more attempts. Of those who underwent banding, 68% were asymptomatic, 17% requested an OPA for re-banding and 15% requested an OPA for a different problem. Of fissure patients, 25% were cured; the remainder were prescribed either second-line medical treatment (8%), anorectal physiology (42%) or surgery (25%). All avoided an OPA. Of a potential 60 OPAs, 47 were saved by telephone follow-up. None of 7 non-contactable patients accepted a written offer of an OPA. Overall, 89% of patients were contacted by the patient panel; of these patients, 93% reported a high level of satisfaction.
Conclusions: Telephone follow-up can reduce the number of OPAs following out-patient treatment of minor anorectal conditions whilst maintaining a high level of patient satisfaction. However, it requires considerable consultant time. This process could be developed into either a nurse-led service with booked telephone appointments or a patient-led service to a dedicated hotline.