Consistency of decision support software-integrated telephone triage and associated factors: a systematic review

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2021 Mar 21;21(1):107. doi: 10.1186/s12911-021-01472-3.


Background: In the recent decades, the use of computerized decision support software (CDSS)-integrated telephone triage (TT) has become an important tool for managing rising healthcare demands and overcrowding in the emergency department. Though these services have generally been shown to be effective, large gaps in the literature exist with regards to the overall quality of these systems. In the current systematic review, we aim to document the consistency of decisions that are generated in CDSS-integrated TT. Furthermore, we also seek to map those factors in the literature that have been identified to have an impact on the consistency of generated triage decisions.

Methods: As part of the TRANS-SENIOR international training and research network, a systematic review of the literature was conducted in November 2019. PubMed, Web of Science, CENTRAL, and the CINAHL database were searched. Quantitative articles including a CDSS component and addressing consistency of triage decisions and/or factors associated with triage decisions were eligible for inclusion in the current review. Studies exploring the use of other types of digital support systems for triage (i.e. web chat, video conferencing) were excluded. Quality appraisal of included studies were performed independently by two authors using the Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies.

Results: From a total of 1551 records that were identified, 39 full-texts were assessed for eligibility and seven studies were included in the review. All of the studies (n = 7) identified as part of our search were observational and were based on nurse-led telephone triage. Scientific efforts investigating our first aim was very limited. In total, two articles were found to investigate the consistency of decisions that are generated in CDSS-integrated TT. Research efforts were targeted largely towards the second aim of our study-all of the included articles reported factors related to the operator- (n = 6), patient- (n = 1), and/or CDSS-integrated (n = 2) characteristics to have an influence on the consistency of CDSS-integrated TT decisions.

Conclusion: To date, some efforts have been made to better understand how the use of CDSS-integrated TT systems may vary across settings. In general, however, the evidence-base surrounding this field of literature is largely inconclusive. Further evaluations must be prompted to better understand this area of research.

Protocol registration: The protocol for this study is registered in the PROSPERO database (registration number: CRD42020146323).

Keywords: CDSS; Computerized decision support software; Systematic review; Telephone triage; Unplanned care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Nurses*
  • Software
  • Telephone
  • Triage*