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Patient burden during appointment-making telephone calls to GP practices

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journal contribution
posted on 12.04.2016, 14:09 by Rein Sikveland, Elizabeth StokoeElizabeth Stokoe, Jon Symonds
Objective: This study addresses, for the first time, the effectiveness of receptionists handling incoming calls from patients to access General Practice services. Methods: It is a large-scale qualitative study of three services in the UK. Using conversation analysis, we identified the issue of ‘patient burden’, which we defined based on the trouble patients display pursuing service. We quantified instances of ‘patient burden’ using a coding scheme. Results: We demonstrate how ‘patient burden’ unfolds in two phases of the telephone calls: (i) following an initial rejection of a patient’s request; and (ii) following a receptionist’s initiation of call closing. Our quantitative analysis shows that the three GP services differ in the frequency of ‘patient burden’ and reveals a correlation between the proportion of ‘patient burden’ and independent national satisfaction scores for these surgeries. Conclusion: Unlike post-hoc surveys, our analysis of live calls identifies the communicative practices which may constitute patient (dis)satisfaction. Practice Implications: Through establishing what receptionists handle well or less well in encounters with patients, we propose ways of improving such encounters through training or other forms of intervention.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Patient Education and Counseling


SIKVELAND, R.O., STOKOE, E. and SYMONDS, J., 2016. Patient burden during appointment-making telephone calls to GP practices. Patient Education and Counseling, 99 (8), pp. 1310-1318.


© Elsevier


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Patient Education and Counseling and the definitive published version is available at