Telephone follow-up as a primary care intervention for postdischarge outcomes improvement: a systematic review

Am J Med. 2012 Sep;125(9):915-21. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.01.035.


Objective: Postdischarge telephone follow-up plays an integral part in transitional care efforts in many regions. We systematically reviewed the literature to evaluate the evidence regarding the impact of primary care-based telephone follow-up on postdischarge emergency department visits and hospital readmissions.

Methods: We performed an electronic database search for relevant telephone follow-up studies originating in adult primary care settings.

Results: Only 3 studies (N=1765) met entry criteria for this review. None of the studies demonstrated evidence of reduced admissions or emergency department visits from primary care-based telephone follow-ups. All 3 studies reported improved primary care office contact as a result of telephone follow-up intervention.

Conclusions: Despite the growing use of primary care-based telephone follow-up in the postdischarge period, there are no high-quality studies demonstrating its benefit. However, its positive impact on patient engagement holds potentially meaningful implications. In light of recent national health care legislation, the primary care field is ripe for high-quality studies to evaluate the effectiveness of telephone follow-up for patients in the postdischarge period. Particular areas of research focus are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Patient Readmission
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Research Design
  • Telephone*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States