PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of patients admitted to an out-of-hours (OOH) service and to analyze the related outputs. SETTING: A retrospective population-based cohort study was conducted by analyzing an electronic database recording 23,980 OOH service contacts in 2011 at a Local Health Authority in the Veneto Region (North-East Italy). METHOD: A multinomial logistic regression was used to compare the characteristics of contacts handled by the OOH physicians with cases referred to other services. RESULTS: OOH service contact rates were higher for the oldest and youngest age groups and for females rather than males. More than half of the contacts concerned patients who were seen by a OOH physician. More than one in three contacts related problems managed over the phone; only ≈10% of the patients were referred to other services. Many factors, including demographic variables, process-logistic variables and clinical characteristics of the contact, were associated with the decision to visit the patient's home (rather than provide telephone advice alone), or to refer patients to an ED or to a specialist. Our study demonstrated, even after adjusting, certain OOH physicians were more likely than their colleagues to refer a patient to an ED. CONCLUSION: Our study shows that OOH services meet composite and variously expressed demands. The determining factors associated with cases referred to other health care services should be considered when designing clinical pathways in order to ensure a continuity of care. The unwarranted variability in OOH physicians' performance needs to be addressed.
- After-hours care
- Delivery of health care
- Health service needs and demands
- Primary health care
- Referral and consultation