A telephone call reminder to improve outpatient attendance in patients referred from the emergency department: A randomised controlled trial

P. D. Ritchie, M. Jenkins, P. A. Cameron

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Poor compliance with attendance at outpatient clinic appointments in patients referred from emergency departments (EDs) is a major problem in public hospitals. Aims: To determine whether the intervention of a telephone call within three days of ED attendance would improve: 1. the proportion of patients making recommended outpatient appointments; and 2. the proportion of patients attending scheduled appointments. To characterise reasons for non-attendance at appointments made by patients referred from the ED. Methods: A randomised controlled trial was undertaken of 400 patients recommended to make outpatient appointments during attendance at The Royal Melbourne Hospital ED in July-August 1999. Intervention: a telephone call one to three days after attendance to remind the patient about the appointment (and its importance for medical follow-up) if one had been made and to offer to make an appointment if one had not been made. Outcome measures: 1. making the recommended appointment; 2. attendance at the scheduled appointment; and 3. reasons for non-attendance at scheduled appointments. Results: The telephone intervention improved attendance at scheduled appointments from 54.4% to 70.7% (p=0.002). The proportion of patients making appointments was not significantly affected. The commonest reasons given for non-attendance were: attended general practitioner (13%), attended private specialist (6.6%), inpatient in hospital at time of appointment (6.6%), too busy or inconvenient (5.3%), claimed to have attended (5.3%) and did not differ by intervention. Conclusions: A significant improvement in the proportion of patients attending outpatients appointments can be made by a simple reminder telephone call one to three days after attendance at the ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-592
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency Department
  • Outpatients

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