Association between mortality and phone-line waiting time for non-urgent medical care: a Danish registry-based cohort study

Elisabeth Helen Anna Mills, Amalie Lykkemark Møller, Filip Gnesin, Nertila Zylyftari, Britta Jensen, Helle Collatz Christensen, Stig Nikolaj Blomberg, Kristian Hay Kragholm, Gunnar Gislason, Lars Køber, Thomas Gerds, Fredrik Folke, Freddy Lippert, Christian Torp-Pedersen, Mikkel Porsborg Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND IMPORTANCE: Telephone calls are often patients' first healthcare service contact, outcomes associated with waiting times are unknown.

OBJECTIVES: Examine the association between waiting time to answer for a medical helpline and 1- and 30-day mortality.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Registry-based cohort study using phone calls data (January 2014 to December 2018) to the Capital Region of Denmark's medical helpline. The service refers to hospital assessment/treatment, dispatches ambulances, or suggests self-care guidance.

EXPOSURE: Waiting time was grouped into the following time intervals in accordance with political service targets for waiting time in the Capital Region: <30 s, 0:30-2:59, 3-9:59, and ≥10 min.

OUTCOME MEASURES AND ANALYSIS: The association between time intervals and 1- and 30-day mortality per call was calculated using logistic regression with strata defined by age and sex.

MAIN RESULTS: In total, 1 244 252 callers were included, phoning 3 956 243 times, and 78% of calls waited <10 min. Among callers, 30-day mortality was 1% (16 560 deaths). For calls by females aged 85-110 30-day mortality increased with longer waiting time, particularly within the first minute: 9.6% for waiting time <30 s, 10.8% between 30 s and 1 minute and 9.1% between 1 and 2 minutes. For calls by males aged 85-110 30-day mortality was 11.1%, 12.9% and 11.1%, respectively. Additionally, among calls with a Charlson score of 2 or higher, longer waiting times were likewise associated with increased mortality. For calls by females aged 85-110 30-day mortality was 11.6% for waiting time <30 s, 12.9% between 30 s and 1 minute and 11.2% between 1 and 2 minutes. For calls by males aged 85-110 30-day mortality was 12.7%, 14.1% and 12.6%, respectively. Fewer ambulances were dispatched with longer waiting times (4%/2%) with waiting times <30 s and >10 min.

CONCLUSION: Longer waiting times for telephone contact to a medical helpline were associated with increased 1- and 30-day mortality within the first minute, especially among elderly or more comorbid callers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Emergency Medicine
ISSN0969-9546
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

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