Call centre triage 'no substitute' for quality GP services

28 December, 2014

Although government-run national call centre triage services can be integrated into a GP out-of-hours service model, they are still no substitute for quality GP after-hours services, the AMA has said in a recent statement.

"There is good evidence that [call centre triage services] are ineffective in managing the demand for emergency department services, a reason that is often given for the creation of such services," AMA Vice President, Dr Stephen Parnis said.

"According to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, referrals to emergency departments by the national health call centre network, healthdirect Australia, are no more appropriate than self-referrals, and less appropriate than GP referrals.

"It is important that call centre health advice and triage services have robust systems in place to automatically provide a caller's regular GP with an event summary of the interaction with the service.

"This is essential to maintain continuity of patient care."

Comprehensive provider directories

"It is also vital that such services maintain comprehensive provider directories to enable call operators to provide relevant and up-to-date advice regarding the local availability of after-hours medical care for those patients who need to be seen in person," Dr Parnis said.

"Regular quality assurance must be undertaken, and the call centres must be transparent regarding their nurse triage process and disposition of calls."

The AMA believes that doctors recruited to call centres must have an appropriate level of experience and hold a fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, or be recognised in the specialty of general practice by the Medical Board of Australia.