The impact of the National HIV Health Care Worker Hotline on patient care in South Africa

BACKGROUND:South Africa has a huge burden of illness due to HIV infection. Many health care workers managing HIV infected patients, particularly those in rural areas and primary care health facilities, have minimal access to information resources and to advice and support from experienced clinicians. The Medicines Information Centre, based in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Cape Town, has been running the National HIV Health Care Worker (HCW) Hotline since 2008, providing free information for HIV treatment-related queries via telephone, fax and e-mail. RESULTS: A questionnaire-based study showed that 224 (44%) of the 511 calls that were received by the hotline during the 2-month study period were patient-specific. Ninety-four completed questionnaires were included in the analysis. Of these, 72 (77%) were from doctors, 13 (14%) from pharmacists and 9 (10%) from nurses. 96% of the callers surveyed took an action based on the advice received from the National HIV HCW Hotline. The majority of actions concerned the start, dose adaption, change, or discontinuation of medicines. Less frequent actions taken were adherence and lifestyle counselling, further investigations, referring or admission of patients. CONCLUSIONS: The information provided by the National HIV HCW Hotline on patient-specific requests has a direct impact on the management of patients.