Assessing Effects of Teletriage on Health Services Utilization of a Rostered Population in Northern Ontario
R.W. Pong, H. Lee, J.C. Hogenbirk, and D. Robinson

The Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research (CRaNHR) and the Group Health Centre (GHC) recently completed a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the impact of teletriage on the patients' use of GHC services of GHC. Medical service use was obtained from the GHC electronic medical records for 1057 patients over 14 months. Results of the RCT show that there was no significant effect of teletriage promotion on the mean number of medical visits to the Sault Area Hospital for all types of hospital visits or for ED visits (a subset of all hospital visits) or to the Group Health Centre for all types of visits. Teletriage promotion reduced the visits to the GHC for selected conditions and for selected types of patients: visits related to the common cold for "Frequent Visitors" were 39% lower in the Teletriage Group (TG) than in the Care-as-Usual Group (CAUG), but there was no significant change for "Families" (patients and their children under 12 years of age), or "Other Patients," or "All Patients." Although there was a statistically significant difference in call rates with more patients in the TG calling more often than those in the CAUG, this difference was not large for either the number of callers (TG=23%, CAUG=18%) nor in the mean number of calls per patient (TG=0.40, CAUG=0.27). These differences in call rates did not translate into statistically significant differences in medical service use.

(funded by the Richard Ivey Foundation)

(Names in bold denote CRaNHR investigators and research staff)