Background: Out-of-hours (OOH) health care for acute medical problems is often challenged by long waiting time for callers in need of advice and triage. Allowing patients to bypass the OOH telephone waiting line may increase patient satisfaction and provide them with a feeling of safety. We aimed to develop an "emergency access button" enabling patients to bypass the normal telephone waiting line in out-of-hours primary care (OOH-PC) if they perceive their condition to be critical and to evaluate the effect of introducing the button in terms of patient satisfaction and their feeling of safety.
Methods: All patients calling the OOH-PC in two different Danish health care regions during three months will be included in this randomized controlled trial. Data will be collected through two questionnaires developed for this study: a pop-up questionnaire on the relevance of bypassing the normal waiting line to be completed by triage professionals after patient contact and a paper/electronic questionnaire on perceived safety and satisfaction with the emergency access button to be completed by the callers. These questionnaires were developed and validated using external and internal expert feedback, focus group interviews and a two-week field test. The study will be conducted over three months with an estimated user-rate of the emergency access button of 3%.
Discussion: We have developed an emergency access button and we now want to investigate whether this new option will influence upon the level of satisfaction and the feeling of safety in the calling patients. Additionally, the study will reveal the assessed relevance of the decision to bypass the line by triage professionals.
Trial registration: Registered as NCT02572115 at Clinicaltrials.gov on October 5th 2015.
Keywords: Accessibility; After hours; Denmark; Health services; Primary care; Triage.