Nova Scotia 811 Telephone Triage and Lower Acuity Pediatric Emergency Department Visits at the IWK Health Centre
Growth in Emergency Department (ED) demand is occurring across the developed world, with increases in both urgent and non-urgent ED visits. Telephone triage systems allow a caller to speak with a healthcare professional for advice and guidance on whether a problem requires an ED visit, primary care, or self-care at home. Telephone triage may have the potential to decrease non-urgent pediatric ED visits by directing callers with lower acuity problems to a non-ED care option. On July 29, 2009 the Nova Scotia (NS) Department of Health and Wellness introduced a provincial telephone triage system, Nova Scotia 811. In the year following implementation, 811 was associated with a modest decrease of 3.6% in the proportion of lower acuity visits at the IWK tertiary care pediatric ED. This study is the first to assess the impact of a regional telephone triage system on pediatric ED visits in a publicly funded healthcare system.