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What is the patient’s best telephone number?
  1. L Tilling,
  2. M J Clancy
  1. Accident and Emergency Department, Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr M J Clancy; 

Statistics from

Patients who attend the emergency medicine department (ED) may need to be contacted either because more information becomes available after they have left (results of investigations, radiological reports) or they fail to attend for follow up or staff have concerns about them. Typically telephone contact is likely to be made between 0900 and 1700 when EDs are best staffed and results of investigations are available.

We undertook a study to establish if the best telephone number to contact the patient between these times has been obtained by the ED receptionists. A convenience sample of 100 patients aged over 18, who had given the receptionist a contact number were then asked by one of us (LT) to give their best daytime telephone number. In 60 cases this best number corresponded with that recorded by the receptionists. For the remaining 40 patients this was not the case and it is likely that they would have been uncontactable between 0900 to 1700. Twenty four suggested a mobile number, nine a work number, and seven a home number. For the six who gave no contact number to the receptionists (because they believed a home number was being requested) five had mobile phones.

The receptionists then changed their questioning and asked for “the best daytime telephone number”. A further 100 patients were then questioned. Eighty eight gave their best number to the receptionists and the proportion of mobile numbers given increased from 6% to 36%. This 28% improvement in patients giving their best number is significant (95% Cl 16.5% to 39.5%) and can be easily obtained.

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