Post-operative telephone review is cost-effective and acceptable to patients

Ulster Med J. 2010 May;79(2):76-9.


Introduction: Patients undergoing selective minor emergency and elective procedures are followed up by a nurse-led structured telephone review six weeks post-operatively in our hospital. Our study objectives were to review patients' satisfaction, assess cost-effectiveness and compare our practice with other surgical units in Northern Ireland (NI).

Patients and methods: Completed telephone follow-up forms were reviewed retrospectively for a three-year period and cost savings calculated. Fifty patients were contacted prospectively by telephone using a questionnaire to assess satisfaction of this follow-up. A postal questionnaire was sent to 68 general and vascular surgeons in NI, assessing individual preferences for patient follow-up.

Results: A total of 1378 patients received a telephone review from September 2005 to September 2008. One thousand one hundred and seventy-seven (85.4%) were successfully contacted, while 201 (14.6%) did not respond despite multiple attempts. One hundred and forty-seven respondents (10.7%) required further outpatient follow-up, thereby saving 1231 outpatient reviews, equivalent to £41,509 per annum. Thirty-nine (78%) patients expected post-operative follow-up, with 29 (58%) expecting this in the outpatient department. However, all patients were satisfied with the nurse-led telephone review. Fifty-three (78%) consultants responded. Those who always, or occasionally, review patients post-operatively varies according to the operation performed, ranging from 2.2% appendicectomy patients to 40.0% for varicose vein surgery.

Conclusion: Current practice in NI varies, but a significant proportion of patients are not routinely reviewed. This study confirmed that patients expect post-operative follow-up. A nurse-led telephone review service is acceptable to patients, cost-effective and reduces the number of unnecessary outpatient reviews.

Keywords: Telephone review; post-operative; telephone follow-up.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Northern Ireland
  • Nurse's Role
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postoperative Care / economics*
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Postoperative Care / nursing*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*