Pattern Between Phone Calls and ER Visits for IBD Patients

Frequency phone calls were a predictor of future visits to the emergency department or hospitalization for patients with inflammatory bowel disease, according to a new study.

Just 15% of patients were responsible for half of all calls to an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) care center. These patients all generated at least 10 telephone encounters a year, according to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine analyzed telephone activity at an IBD care center and found a correlation between call volume and visits to the emergency department (ED).

Telephone communication between healthcare providers and patients with IBD is common, and the researchers analyzed more than 50,000 phone calls from more than 3,000 patients over the course of 2 years. Telephone encounters occurred twice as frequently as office visits, the authors reported.

The researchers categorized the calls into 5 groups: problem/follow-up (52%), resolution/plan (25%), refill requests/pharmacy contacts (12%), insurance authorization (10%), and completion of forms or record requests (1%).

According to the authors, patients who were high-frequency callers were more likely to be hospitalized or seen in the ED during 2009 and 2010 and in subsequent years. Of those with 8 or more telephone encounters within 30 days, 42% were seen in the emergency room or hospitalized within the same year.

High telephone-encounter patients were more likely to be female, have Crohn’s disease, receive steroid treatment, show increased levels of C-reactive protein, have high rates of erythrocyte sedimentation, and experience psychiatric comorbidities and chronic abdominal pain.

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