Daily total of after-hours calls to physicians in Family Medicine: maintaining patient expectations and person-centeredness

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James E. Rohrer
Gregory M. Garrison
Carol Tunney
Joseph W. Furst
Gregory J. Anderson


Purpose and background:  To assess call volume in after-hours physician service. A new after-hours family physician call service was established in a large group practice to replace some of the resident call shifts and meet patient expectations.Methods: Call logs were completed by physicians who were on call over 52 days. The number of calls per day displayed on a run chart and control charts was the principal outcome measure.Results: The median calls per day was 2 and the mean was 2.45.  A run chart revealed fewer runs than expected.  Control charts led to misleading conclusions. Weekends were high-volume.  More calls were received in the evenings than during the day.Conclusion: The after-hours call service experienced occasional high volume and limited movement below the median.  Efforts to educate patients and to triage calls might be directed toward weekends and evenings.  Inappropriate use of control charts may work against improvements in population health management, patient expectations and the person-centeredness of clinical services.

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