Many telehealth nurse triage departments rely on patient call-backs to help address those with the most pressing medical needs. But how are these calls prioritized, and what call-back times are appropriate when it comes to emergent, urgent, and non-urgent symptoms? Below, you’ll find a full breakdown of the policies we follow in our own nurse triage call center. But first, let’s review why call-backs are important.
Reasons for Patient Call-Backs
Healthcare providers make use of patient call-backs for a couple of reasons. First, call volumes are often unpredictable and can fluctuate beyond available nurse staffing. Second, answering all calls “live” can become expensive, depending on a practice’s budget and because that would mean having an idle nurse available at all times.
To ensure that all triage nurses fulfill their mandate — that is, to avoid any delays in care — call-backs must be performed within a specific window of time based on the initial symptoms of each patient.
That’s where Answering Service Operators (ASOs) come into play. They serve as the first point of contact on a triage line to learn about each patient’s reason for calling, and discern its level of severity. Doing so effectively means these operators should have knowledge of what detailed questions to ask, which is made easier when prompted by nurse triage software that includes questions for the answering service.
Call-Back Return Times
Potentially life-threatening symptoms should be transferred to triage nurses immediately. These include severe breathing difficulty, anaphylaxis, or unresponsiveness. Callers who do not require immediate medical attention are evaluated based on whether their needs are emergent, urgent, or non-urgent. ASOs inform patient callers on when to expect their call-backs while simultaneously routing their information to the appropriate triage queue.
Emergent calls must be returned in five minutes or less, and can include symptoms related to eye trauma or poison ingestion.
Urgent calls must be returned in fifteen minutes or less, and can include symptoms like severe pain or breathing difficulty.
Non-urgent calls should be returned within 30 to 60 minutes, and can include symptoms related to coughs, colds, or diaper rash.
After the Call
Triage nurses ensure that patients understand the proper level of care they should seek, whether it’s available at home, from their primary care physician, or at the emergency room. Nurses also verify with those patients that they know when to call the triage line back if their symptoms worsen. And, if patients refuse to seek medical care for any reason, nurses document this fact in their records to avoid potential liability. (You can read more about decreasing patient liability using nurse triage software by clicking here.)
Outsource Your Nurse Triage Call-Backs
As we mentioned above, it can be difficult maintaining the right level of nurse triage based on your practice’s budget. That’s why we offer a cost-effective outsourced service in the form of our nurse call center. Our Answering Service Operators utilize intuitive triage software to understand the needs of your patients, then connect them with the appropriate registered nurse for evaluation. They too utilize this software and its Schmitt-Thompson protocols to become an extension of your practice. The care advice for different dispositions— and the triage software on which they run — can be customized to your physicians’ preferences when it comes to patient advice, referrals, and medications.
You can use data analytics from patient call history in order to better understand your patients and their needs. We know this because it’s how we operate our call center. We also use it to measure feedback about triage nurse performance, and the percentages of each protocol used to better understand the typical needs of patient callers. Our data analysis center can provide you with custom reports based on the information that your practice needs.
Patient call-backs are an essential part of nurse triage for addressing patient needs in the appropriate windows of time. Our median call back times are under 12 minutes. If you need assistance providing this level of care for your patients, we want to help. Contact us today to learn more about what an outsourced triage program with us looks like.
TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of top-quality nurse telehealth technology, remote patient monitoring, and medical call center solutions. Founded in 2007, the TriageLogic Group now serves more than 9,000 physicians and covers over 25 million lives nationwide.