Journal of Community Health

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 194–203

The telephone in primary care

  • Authors
  • Peter Curtis
  • Addison Talbot

DOI: 10.1007/BF01323010

Cite this article as:
Curtis, P. & Talbot, A. J Community Health (1981) 6: 194. doi:10.1007/BF01323010


This paper presents a review of the use of the telephone in primary care medicine. The telephone is available to a large majority of United States citizens, a situation that is unusual in other countries. Between 15 and 20% of all primary medical contacts in the United States occur on the telephone. Approximately 40% of routine office telephone contacts are administrative in nature, the remainder involving direct requests for advice or treatment. After office hours, requests for immediate medical advice constitute almost all of the calls (for both daytime and after hours calls). Close to 70% of the medical calls are managed solely by use of telephone.

Although the telephone is effectively used for medical consultation, teaching and survey purposes, it has been shown that health professionals are often ineffective when providing medical care over the telephone. The use of protocols or specific training tends to improve performance, but such programs are not a regular part of medical education.

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1981