Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Telephone consultations in place of face to face out-patient consultations for patients discharged from hospital following surgery: a systematic review

Jo Thompson-Coon1*, Abdul-Kareem Abdul-Rahman1, Rebecca Whear1, Alison Bethel1, Bijay Vaidya2, Christian A Gericke34 and Ken Stein1

Author Affiliations

1 PenCLAHRC, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Veysey Building, Salmon Pool Lane, Exeter, EX2 4SF, UK

2 Department of Endocrinology, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK

3 PenCLAHRC, National Institute for Health Research, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Plymouth, Portland Square, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK

4 The Wesley Research Institute and Queenland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, 4068, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:128  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-128

Published: 5 April 2013



Routine follow-up following uncomplicated surgery is being delivered by telephone in some settings. Telephone consultations may be preferable to patients and improve outpatient resource use. We aimed to compare the effectiveness of telephone consultations with face to face follow-up consultations, in patients discharged from hospital following surgery.


Seven electronic databases (including Medline, Embase and PsycINFO) were searched from inception to July 2011. Comparative studies of any design in which routine follow-up via telephone was compared with face to face consultation in patients discharged from hospital after surgery were included. Study selection, data extraction and quality appraisal were performed independently by two reviewers with consensus reached by discussion and involvement of a third reviewer where necessary.


Five papers (four studies; 865 adults) met the inclusion criteria. The studies were of low methodological quality and reported dissimilar outcomes precluding any formal synthesis.


There has been very little comparative evaluation of different methods of routine follow-up care in patients discharged from hospital following surgery. Further work is needed to establish a role for telephone consultation in this patient group.

Systematic review; Outpatient appointment scheduling; Surgery; Routine follow-up; Telephone consultation