Mark*, a 27-year-old male, is covering third base in the company softball game on a Friday evening when Sarah from accounting attempts to steal from second. She slides into Mark, jamming his left ankle. Mark tries to walk it off, but the pain and swelling quickly worsen. Unsure about the level of care he needs, Mark calls his employer’s 24-7 nurse-first triage line.
The nurse asks Mark a series of questions, including “do the bones look dislocated?” and “did you hear a cracking or popping sound?” Based on Mark’s answers, the nurse concludes that he likely does not have a broken bone and can manage his symptoms without medical intervention. She provides care advice, recommending the standard “rest-ice-compression-elevation” strategy. The triage nurse encourages Mark to call his primary care physician or go to an urgent care facility if the pain and swelling do not improve after one to two days.
Mark applies an ice pack to his ankle and watches the rest of the game from the dugout. He’s thankful to avoid a costly emergency department (ED) visit and confident he can manage his symptoms for the time being.
All too often, injuries and illnesses like these occur outside primary care providers’ office hours. Without a medical professional’s guidance, people like Mark often choose a higher level of care than necessary, resulting in poor health care utilization and higher costs.
A 24/7 nurse-first triage line can be a gamechanger. Nurses provide timely clinical expertise, directing callers to the appropriate level of care at any time of day or night. Callers experience peace of mind knowing a registered nurse has assessed their condition and recommended the most appropriate care.
In 2020, Conduit Health Partners partnered with Medical Mutual, one of Ohio’s largest health insurance companies, to provide its 24/7 nurse-first triage line. Since then:
Call center triage services may receive thousands of calls a day from people with vastly different health concerns. That is why it’s essential to have nurses, rather than non-clinical personnel, staff the call center or telehealth service.
When non-clinical personnel answer a call, their job is to collect initial information about the injury or illness and place the patient in a queue for a nurse call-back. This creates care delays and frustration; patients may give up and seek care at an ED “just in case.”
With a nurse-first model, nurses can begin the triage process immediately.
Conduit’s 24/7 nurse triage solution uses the Schmitt-Thompson Protocols — the gold standard in nurse telehealth triage guidelines. Dr. Barton Schmitt and Dr. David Thompson developed the protocols 25 years ago. Today, the Schmitt-Thompson Protocols provide world-class decision support to help nurses assess patient symptoms based on severity and recommend next steps for care.
Triage nurses follow the protocols closely for each caller, ensuring consistency and high-quality service. After-hours protocols include 397 adult topics and 348 pediatric topics. These protocols offer triage guidelines for 99% of all symptom calls.
During a call, nurses ask assessment questions* customized to their symptoms. For example, if a caller reports abdominal pain, questions might include:
Depending on the caller’s answers, the nurse may recommend they call 911, go to the emergency room, seek care from a primary care or urgent care provider within a specific timeframe, or manage their symptoms at home.
Using evidence-based protocols to triage callers improves employees’ and patients’ health care experiences and outcomes. By directing callers to the appropriate level of care, nurses help cut down on ED wait times and unnecessary visits that frustrate patients, cause provider burnout and may cost significantly more than appropriate solutions. It may also help lower costs for your organization related to absenteeism and performance.
Using the nurse-first triage line ensures that your employees and patients receive thoroughly vetted, advanced health care guidance for themselves and their families. That’s because a team of professionals with diverse medical expertise periodically review the Schmitt-Thompson Protocols to ensure they follow best practices.
** Mark and Sarah are fictional people.