Association Between Telephone Activity and Features of Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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BACKGROUND & AIMS:Telephone communication is common between healthcare providers and patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We analyzed telephone activity at an IBD care center to identify disease and patient characteristics associated with high levels of telephone activity and determine if call volume could identify individuals at risk for future visits to the emergency department (ED) or hospitalization.METHODS:We performed a prospective observational study in which we categorized telephone calls received by nursing staff over 2 years at a tertiary care IBD clinic (2475 patients in 2009 and 3118 in 2010). We analyzed data on 21,979 ingoing and outgoing calls in 2009 and 32,667 calls in 2010 and assessed associations between clinical factors and logged telephone encounters, and between patterns of telephone encounters and future visits to the ED or hospitalization.RESULTS:Telephone encounters occurred twice as frequently as office visits; 15% of the patients generated >10 telephone encounters per year and were responsible for half of all telephone encounters. A higher percentage of these high telephone encounter (HTE) patients were female, had Crohn's disease, received steroid treatment, had increased levels of C-reactive protein and rates of erythrocyte sedimentation, had psychiatric comorbidities, and had chronic abdominal pain than patients with lower telephone encounters. The HTE patients were also more frequently seen in the ED or hospitalized over the same time period and in subsequent years. Forty-two percent of patients with >8 telephone encounters within 30 days were seen in the ED or hospitalized within the subsequent 12 months.CONCLUSIONS:Based on an analysis of telephone records at an IBD clinic, 15% of patients account for half of all calls. These HTE patients are a heterogeneous group with refractory disease who are likely to visit the ED or be hospitalized.

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