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Improving the quality of telephone-delivered health care: a national quality improvement transformation initiative.

LaVela SL, Gering J, Schectman G, Locatelli SM, Weaver FM, Davies M. Improving the quality of telephone-delivered health care: a national quality improvement transformation initiative. Family Practice. 2013 Oct 1; 30(5):533-40.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Many Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care (PC) patients prefer telephone-delivered care to other health care delivery modalities. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate PC patients' telephone experiences and outcomes before and after a national telephone transformation quality improvement (QI) collaborative. METHODS: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted pre- and post-collaborative. We used bivariate analyses to assess differences in pre/post outcomes and multivariate regression to identify variables associated with patients' perceptions of poor quality care. RESULTS: Patients from 13 VA facilities participated (n = 730; pre-intervention = 314, post-intervention = 416); most of them were males (90%) with a mean age of 62 years. After the collaborative (versus pre-collaborative), few experienced transfers (52% versus 62%, P = 0.0006) and most reported timely call answer (88% versus 80%, P = 0.003). Improvements in staff understanding why patients were calling and providing needed medical information were also found. There were measurable improvements in patient satisfaction (87% versus 82% very/mostly satisfied, P = 0.04) and perceived quality of telephone care (85% versus 78% excellent/good quality, P = 0.01) post- collaborative. The proportion of veterans who reported delayed care due to telephone access issues decreased from 41% to 15% after the collaborative, P < 0.0001. Perceptions of poor quality care were higher when calls were for urgent care needs did not result in receipt of needed information and included a transfer or untimely answer. CONCLUSIONS: The QI collaborative led to improvements in timeliness of answering calls, patient satisfaction and perceptions of high-quality telephone care and fewer reports of health care delays. Barriers to optimal telephone care 'quality' include untimely answer, transfers, non-receipt of needed information and urgent care needs.





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