Telephone health services can be an effective way of supplying health information to consumers and are becoming increasingly popular in many jurisdictions. Among the benefits of such services are improved decision-making by consumers regarding access to health services, improved access to health advice and information, and improved public satisfaction with health services. This project sought to establish and evaluate a telecare service in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as the first phase of an eventual province-wide service in Ontario. Following a consultation process, the Ministry selected a service provider through a competitive process and the service was launched in February 2001. The Ontario Government expanded the service province-wide by December 2001 and by September 2002 it averaged 3100 calls per day. Primary users are mothers seeking advice and information about their children’s health problems. From the outset, callers have been extremely positive about the triage and information services they have received. Firm conclusions cannot be drawn at this point because of the relatively short service period, and a more comprehensive evaluation is planned and will assess both the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the service and its impact on the broader health care system. Nonetheless, early results based on caller intent show at least an initial shift in behaviour following the implementation of the telecare service.
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.