Medical liability concept for initial patient messages: a heart monitor graph is superimposed over a stethoscope and gavel.

Initial Patient Messages: What’s Missing That You Don’t Know About?

Healthcare organizations depend on efficient, reliable communication, especially when it comes to taking initial patient messages. These are often the first points of contact that patients have to express their concerns and receive guidance on care. But for nonclinical staff, deciphering patient symptoms over the phone can be challenging. Let’s talk about what your nonclinical team may be missing when they’re interacting with patient callers, and how they can improve the accuracy of medical message intake and continuity of care.

The Clinical Component: Why It Matters

While nonclinical staff members can be essential to your organization, they typically lack the clinical expertise necessary to fully understand and interpret patient symptoms. This means that they could overlook crucial information that a trained medical ear might otherwise pick up on. In fact, roughly 30 percent of emergency messages relayed from nonclinical phone operators to triage nurses have been found to be inaccurate. This gap in clinical knowledge can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and poor health outcomes, especially during an emergency.

For example, imagine a patient describing abdominal pain. While a nonclinical operator may acknowledge the seriousness of this individual symptom, they may not grasp the potential urgency that a healthcare professional would — or know which related symptoms they should ask about. Not only does this lack of insight potentially hinder timely and appropriate care, it also means a greater liability for the practice in the event of a poor health outcome.

Bridging the Gap with MedMessage Assist™

TriageLogic’s innovative real-time system-analysis tool, MedMessage Assist™ (MMA), has been developed to bridge this knowledge gap. MMA utilizes sophisticated medical scripting to empower nonclinical staff, allowing them to collect all relevant patient symptoms and relay them accurately to medical staff. MMA is designed to protect doctors’ offices from malpractice liability by ensuring that nonclinical operators don’t miss critical information about patient symptoms.

MMA works by prompting nonclinical operators with additional follow-up questions as they type patient symptoms, when MMA recognizes symptoms that need further clarification. MMA incorporates seamlessly into existing workflows and integrates with EPIC, Cerner and Athena.

Interested in learning more?

Consider these real cases in which MMA prompted phone operators to ask patients additional questions that identified the actual urgency of each patient’s call.

MedMessage Assist™ Examples

Initial Entry by the Operator

Additional Information Added by MedMessage Assist

Patient Disposition by
Triage Nurse

Back and stomach pain

Patient is pregnant, with No urination for 8+ hours

Go to Labor and Delivery Now

Pain in leg and hip

Chest pain

Call EMS 911 Now

Prescription refill for vertigo

Possible weakness or numbness of the arm, leg or face

Call EMS 911 Now

Along with improving initial patient messages, MMA offers a host of additional benefits

  • It’s self-teaching, reducing the time it takes to onboard new nonclinical operators.
  • It’s HIPAA compliant and adheres to cybersecurity best practices.
  • It functions as a standalone module, removing the need for additional software.
  • It offers intuitive documentation and reporting for practice liability with EMR integration.

The Importance of Acronyms: OLD CART to the Rescue

Along with MedMessage Assist, nonclinical operators can rely on the mnemonic device, OLD CART, as a means of prompting them to ask the appropriate questions when speaking with patient callers.

  • O (Onset of symptoms): When did symptoms first begin, and have they been experienced before?
  • L (Location): Where on the body are these symptoms originating?
  • D (Duration): How long have these symptoms been present, and are they sustained or intermittent?
  • C (Characteristics): What do these symptoms feel like? (Encourage specific details.)
  • A (Associated factors): Are there any additional signs and symptoms happening simultaneously?
  • R (Relieving factors): Does anything make these symptoms feel better or reduce their severity?
  • T (Treatments tried): Has anything been done to relieve these symptoms? If so, has it worked?

By adopting this structured approach, nonclinical staff can ensure that no critical details are overlooked. OLD CART acts as a mental checklist, helping operators gather the necessary information to convey a comprehensive and accurate account of each patient’s symptoms.

Empowering Nonclinical Staff for Better Patient Outcomes

We talk a lot in our articles about empowering doctors and triage nurses, but nonclinical staff are just as important to the success of patient care. Incorporating tools like MedMessage Assist and adopting systems like OLD CART can contribute significantly to enhanced patient communication and medical message intake.

Initial patient messages should no longer be a source of uncertainty for nonclinical staff. With the right tools and methodologies, operators can confidently navigate these interactions and verify that patient symptoms are recorded accurately and thoroughly before sharing them with available triage nurses.

Let’s Improve Your Initial Patient Messages Together

Now, TriageLogic is offering a one-month free trial of MedMessage Assist to all customers. 

Would your team like to take advantage of all that MMA has to offer? Contact us today to schedule your personalized demo and learn more about a customized program!

About TriageLogic

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 22,000 physicians and covers over 42 million lives nationwide.

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