Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze a teleconsultation modality based on a simple telephone call, using either landline or mobile phone, made available to more than two million people. Telecommunication systems are an increasingly common feature in modern healthcare. However, making teleconsultations available to the entire population covered by a public health system is a challenging goal. Design/methodology/approach This retrospective longitudinal observational study analyzed how this modality was used at the primary care level in Galicia, a region in the Northwest of Spain, in 2014 and 2015, focusing on demand, gender and age preferences, rural vs urban population and efficiency. Findings Of 28,472,852 consultations requested in this period, 9.0 percent were telephone consultations. Women requested more telephone consultations (9.9 percent of total consultations) than men (7.7 percent of total consultations). The highest demand occurred for the over 85 age group for both men and women. In both years, 2014 and 2015, the number of telephone consultations per inhabitant was higher in urban (0.53 and 0.69) than in rural areas (0.34 and 0.47). In 10.9 percent of cases, the telephone consultations required further face-to-face consultation. Originality/value Conventional voice telephone calls can efficiently replace conventional face-to-face consultations in primary healthcare in roughly 10 percent of cases. Women are more likely than men to use primary care services in both face-to-face and telephone consultation modalities. Public healthcare systems should consider implementing telephone consultations to deliver their services.
Keywords: Healthcare; Primary healthcare; Public health; Teleconsultation; Telephone consultation.