Patients were asked to complete a self-assessment form on registration to determine the reason for attendance. Researchers determined the benefits of this approach by measuring patient waiting times, reducing unnecessary specialist reviews, and patient acceptability as tested by a patient satisfaction survey. An independent readers’ panel also assessed the ease of comprehension of the triage form.
One hundred ninety-three patients were recruited over four months. Patients from the November and December clinics were assigned to the ‘traditional treatment’ arm, with patients at subsequent clinics assigned to the ‘self-triage’ system. Waiting times were collected by the receptionist and clinic staff. Ninety-six patients followed the traditional route, ninety-seven the new self-triage system. Sixty-nine patients completed the satisfaction survey. The self-triage system significantly reduced the waiting time. There was a non-significant reduction in patients’ proportion seeing two clinicians from 21% to 13%. Satisfaction levels were not significantly altered. The readers’ panel found the triage form both easy to understand and to complete.
The study concluded that self-triage could effectively reduce clinic waiting times and allow better organization of resources. Urgent cases can be prioritized. This process appears to be acceptable to and understandable by patients.