The AMA has released its revised Position Statement on Call Centre Triage and Advice Services - 2004 (Revised 2014).
The Position Statement reflects changes that have occurred over the last decade, including the establishment of Government-run national call centre triage services, and incorporates current data and research.
AMA Vice President, Dr Stephen Parnis, said the AMA maintains that, while telephone triage can be part of an integrated GP out-of-hours service model, it is not a substitute for accessing high quality GP after-hours services.
"There is a paucity of independent evidence regarding the cost effectiveness of call centre advice and triage services," Dr Parnis said.
"But there is good evidence that they are ineffective in managing the demand for emergency department services, a reason that is often given for the creation of such services.
"According to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, referrals to emergency departments by the national health call centre network, healthdirect Australia, are no more appropriate than self-referrals, and less appropriate than GP referrals.
"It is important that call centre health advice and triage services have robust systems in place to automatically provide a caller's regular GP with an event summary of the interaction with the service. This is essential to maintain continuity of patient care.
"It is also vital that such services maintain comprehensive provider directories to enable call operators to provide relevant and up-to-date advice regarding the local availability of after-hours medical care for those patients who need to be seen in person.
"Regular quality assurance must be undertaken, and the call centres must be transparent regarding their nurse triage process and disposition of calls," Dr Parnis said.
The AMA believes that doctors recruited to call centres must have an appropriate level of experience and hold a fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, or be recognised in the specialty of general practice by the Medical Board of Australia.
The Position Statement is at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/call-centre-triage-and-advice-services-2004-revised-2014