While the methods for providing positive patient experiences may have changed over time, the reasons haven’t. In fact, NRC Health’s comments from a few years back still hold up today: by attracting and retaining patients, you prompt them to “become more engaged in their own care, and develop a stronger sense of loyalty to your organization.” Our current healthcare environment means these experiences are no longer only happening in person — they’re often beginning and continuing over the phone and online. So when it comes to telehealth and nurse triage, it’s important that your nurses have training on how to put patients at ease, build their trust, and guide them to the most appropriate levels of care. To do that, quality nurse behavior must consider the following factors.
Without being able to physically see a caller or their symptoms, nurses must rely on clarifying questions and a full range of listening skills to obtain the information they need. While it’s true that Schmitt-Thompson protocols help guide many of those questions in order to categorize symptom severity, nurses must also understand that some patients may have multiple symptoms to triage, or may initially omit certain information on the call. When triaging patients, it is crucial that nurses select the most appropriate protocols to address their symptoms. (You can watch videos on triage protocols and how to select them in our Learning Center.)
Chances are, patients who use a triage line are already stressed, worried, or anxious. Some of them may be difficult. Others may even put nurses in uncomfortable situations, as explained further in this video. Regardless of callers’ emotional states, responding nurses must remain calm and professional. They should avoid language that sounds like they’re unsure of their own guidance, or that they’re offering opinions. For example, they shouldn’t say “I think,” “Maybe,” or “I’m not sure” — instead, they should say “Let me check on that for you.” It’s also critical that they not provide diagnoses, but rather explain the type of care that will address patient symptoms in the appropriate window of time, whether that’s at home, from a primary care doctor, or at the ER.
By smiling and offering calm, attentive, and empathetic voices, nurses are more likely to reassure callers and encourage them to trust their dispositions. Studies show that patients can recognize when a nurse is smiling even when talking over the phone.
Triage nurses rely on three types of listening skills in order to glean information from patients. Those include active listening, reflective listening, and empathic listening.
Active: The use of short, encouraging words or phrases to let callers know they’ve been heard. For example: Okay, I see, I understand.
Reflective: Paraphrasing what callers have said, and asking additional questions to clarify any needed details. For example: You say you’re concerned about [symptom], right? Can you describe what happened?
Empathic: Providing attention to how callers may feel, not just focusing on the facts. For example: That must be quite frustrating, but rest assured that I am here to help you get the care that you need.
We’ve seen firsthand how important these factors are at both influencing positive patient experiences and getting callers to the care they need. If you’d like to learn more about how your nurses can emulate this behavior, or about the services and products we offer that already incorporate it, then schedule a time for a call today.
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.