Is a Trip to the Emergency Room Necessary? Read Anna’s Case Study

 Is a Trip to the Emergency Room Necessary? Read Anna’s Case Study 

Emergency room visits cost an average of $2,1681, making it an expensive option for care. For the patient, it means high co-pays, a long wait in a crowded emergency room, and the possibility of catching a virus while waiting.  The difficulty in making the right decision on whether or not an emergency room visit is needed stems from the fact that most patients are not trained in medicine. Triage nurses are there to help patient’s evaluate if symptoms are serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit or if they can wait.

Overlooking symptoms may lead to more complications in the future.  When your practice provides a nurse triage service, such as TriageLogic’s Nurse Triage On Call, patients have the option to speak with a Registered Nurse regarding their symptoms anytime. Nurses are specially trained to ask specific and targeted questions to determine if the safest place for the caller is at home or the emergency room, or something in between.

In a TriageLogic survey, we asked patients what they would have done if they did not have access to a nurse. Only 30% of all the patients who said they would have gone to an ER needed to go.  Alarmingly, 10% of the patients who said they would have stayed home actually needed to seek emergency care. Many times, TriageLogic nurses are able to redirect the caller to a safer and less expensive treatment option that allows them to stay home and treat their symptoms. The nurses also provide information to educate patients on the symptoms that they should monitor. For cases that do not require a visit to the emergency room but still require a physician, patients have the option to wait to see their doctor the next day, or they can pay to speak with the telehealth doctor for advice or prescriptions that day.

The following is a case study that illustrates the importance of having a quality nurse triage service available for your patients.

Does the Pain Require an Emergency Room Visit?

Anna is a 57 year-old2 experiencing urinary pain that started over 2 weeks ago.  She was prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics when she visited her physician close to the onset of symptoms, however her pain and frequent urination continued. Tonight, she began experiencing left sided flank pain, nausea, and severe pain with urination.  

She contacted the TriageLogic nurse to check in her symptoms. She told the nurse that she “needed to urinate all the time, but only a drop of urine came out each time”.  In addition to these symptoms, Anna also felt chilled, experienced a weakness in her legs, and it was very uncomfortable for her to sit.

Anna works in construction and her co-pays are high for emergency room visits. She is a single mother of two teenagers, so money is tight. While she was concerned about her symptoms worsening, she certainly did not want to waste money if she could call her physician in the morning.  

Usually in a ten to twelve-minute conversation, TriageLogic nurses gather information about the patient to properly advise them. This includes current symptoms, pertinent past medical history, and any other significant circumstances, such as if the patient is able and willing to comply with the recommended plan.

It was evident within minutes of talking to Anna that her symptoms did warrant an emergency room visit. With the reassurance of the nurse, Anna did go in and was seen quickly. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection. If she hadn’t talked with her triage nurse and had waited overnight, her condition could have worsened to the point where she would have needed to be admitted for IV antibiotics.  

Anna’s scenario is a good lesson for us all.  She didn’t want to unnecessarily go to the emergency room, and the TriageLogic nurse was able to encourage and reassure Anna that she was getting the safest and most appropriate care by going into the emergency room that night. The nurse was also able to fax her documented encounter to Anna’s physician, so that the office was aware, and had an appointment saved for her.  This not only saved Anna time, but also made it as easy and seamless as possible for her.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can provide your patients with our Nurse Triage On Call services and how trips to the emergency room can be prevented, please contact us for more information.


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1.  Caldwell N, Srebotnjak T, Wang T, Hsia R (2013) ‘‘How Much Will I get Charged for This?’’ Patient Charges for Top Ten Diagnoses in the Emergency Department. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55491. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055491
2.  Name and other identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of the caller.


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