The telephone has become an indispensable method of communication in the practice of obstetrics. The telephone is one of the primary methods by which the patient makes her appointments and contacts her health care provider for advice, reassurance, and referrals. Current methods of telephone triage include personal at the physicians' office, telephone answering services, labor and delivery nurses, and a dedicated telephone triage system using algorithms. Limitations of telephone triage include the inability of the provider to see the patient and receive visual clues from the interaction and the challenges of obtaining a complete history over the telephone. In addition, there are potential safety and legal issues with telephone triage. To date, there is insufficient evidence to either validate or refute the use of a dedicated telephone triage system compared with a traditional system using an answering service or nurses on labor and delivery.
Target audience: Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians.
Learning objectives: After completing this CME activity, physicians should be better able to analyze the scope of variation in telephone triage across health care providers and categorize the components that go into a successful triage system, assess the current scope of research in telephone triage in obstetrics, evaluate potential safety and legal issues with telephone triage in obstetrics, and identify issues that should be addressed in any institution that is using or implementing a system of telephone triage in obstetrics.