TELEHEALTH TRENDS During COVID-19
This ebook discusses outcomes from a study on a telephone nurse triage system used during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reviews caller demographics, triage protocols, and changes in patient behavior.
Nurse triage is a system in which trained nurses use standardized protocols to evaluate patients’ symptoms over the phone to determine the appropriate courses of action. This ebook analyzes data from a nurse triage call center during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on patient demographics, symptoms, and dispositions. The data analyzed covers the period from January to October 2020 and includes patient demographics, dispositions, and triage protocols. Patients were also given a simple Yes/No survey question at the end of their calls about whether or not they had been planning to go to the ER. The study provides a breakdown of all patients who called the nurse triage service, based on gender and age, and compares the demographics of those who had specific COVID-related concerns.
Recorded data shows that women called nearly two to three times more frequently than men, and that more than one in four adults who called needed urgent medical attention, despite not originally intending to go to the ER. Women ages 18-45 tended to have more severe symptoms than other adult patients, and were 1.5 times as likely to need urgent care as men their age. Patients tended to underestimate signs of a more serious medical condition, including abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, chest pain, high blood pressure, and COVID diagnosis or exposure. About 30% of patients who were planning to go to the ER did not need urgent care.
Patients who utilized these triage lines often under- or overestimated the seriousness of their medical symptoms. The early stages of the pandemic only exacerbated this trend as many callers voiced their fears about going to the ER. The study emphasizes that telephone nurse triage provides a safe and effective way to direct patients to the appropriate levels of care, save lives, and reduce the burden on healthcare systems.