School of Population Health

Health phone line study raises questions over spending

image - Health Phone Line

A study into use of the federal government’s healthdirect telephone advice line raises questions over whether the line is the best use of finite health dollars, says UNSW Associate Professor (Conjoint) Patrick Bolton. Australians who use the healthdirect 24/7 health triage phone advice service often don’t comply with it, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week.

The health advice line is staffed by registered nurses, who answer calls about any health issue but the MJA study shows more than half of those people who attended one Perth hospital’s emergency department after contacting healthdirect did so despite being given advice not to attend.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Associate Professor Bolton from the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine says consideration must be given as to whether the service is the best way to spend limited government funds.

“It is not clear that, if offered an informed choice, the community would choose to pay for telephone advice that makes little difference to their behaviour over other health service priorities,” Associate Professor Bolton says.

“In relation to whether an ED visit is required, it appears that a phone call will answer the question.”

Read the full MJA media release here.

Media contact: UNSW Media I 02 9385 8107