Telenursing triage and advice services are increasingly being used to deliver health advice. Medication-related queries are common, however little research has explored the medication-related calls made to these services. The aim of this study was to examine the profile of medication-related calls to a national telenursing triage and advice service and the medications involved.
This was a retrospective cohort study of medication-related calls received by Australia’s national helpline (healthdirect helpline) in 2014, which provides free advice from registered nurses. We examined the volume of medication-related calls over time, user profiles for patients and callers, and call characteristics and we also investigated medications involved in the calls by their generic names and therapeutic classes.
Of 675,774 calls, 3.8% (n = 25,744) were medication-related, which was the largest category of calls. The average call length was 10 min. Over half of callers (55.4%) were advised to deliver self-care. Of 7,459 calls where the callers reported they did not know what to do prior to calling, 56.8% were advised to self-care and 3.5% were transferred to the Poisons Information Centre immediately. Of 1,277 calls where callers reported that they had originally intended to call an ambulance or attend an emergency department (ED), none were advised to do so. Advice most frequently requested was about analgesics and antipyretics, followed by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
The telenursing triage and advice helpline offered quick and easily accessible advice, and provided reassurance to patients and callers with medication-related queries. The service also potentially diverted some patients from attending an ED unnecessarily.