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Reduce Unnecessary ER Visits with Telephone Triage

 Reduce Unnecessary ER Visits with Telephone Triage

Over the years, telemedicine has been gaining acceptance as a means of lowering healthcare costs and decreasing the unnecessary use of the ER.  Telephone nurse triage has become part of the telemedicine solution. By using standardized protocols to advise patients on their symptoms and indicate the appropriate care, triage nurses decrease unnecessary ER visits, resulting in significant annual healthcare savings. In addition, having nurses as the first line of care encourages patients to call since patients are not always sure if they need a doctor to evaluate their symptoms.

Unnecessary visits to emergency rooms are costing patients, hospitals and insurance companies approximately $4.4 billion a year according to a study by the RAND Corporation. This problem has become such an issue that earlier this summer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia told patients with individual policies that they will not cover ER claims if the patient does not have a legitimate emergency. In order to cut the costs of unnecessary ER visits, they recommend patients use urgent care centers, retail health clinics, and 24/7 telehealth services, such as TriageLogic or Continuwell.

The improper use of emergency rooms is not only a problem in Georgia. It places a high financial burden on the entire U.S. healthcare system. With the U.S. healthcare system in serious need of cost-cutting, there is increasing pressure on everyone to minimize unnecessary use, while ensuring that people who truly need care receive it in a timely manner, thereby reducing the potential for life-threatening conditions.

One of the important aspects of nurse triage that is often overlooked is the profoundly human aspect of the service. Most callers are truly concerned about their symptoms and having access to a triage nurse provides reassurance and guidance. It is difficult to put a price on peace of mind.  In addition, some callers may not realize the severity of their symptoms and may fear being responsible for the entire ER bill, thus delaying care for potentially life-threatening conditions. Studies show that about 1 in every 14 callers thought that their symptom was not serious prior to the nurse sending them to an emergency visit.  Providing patients with a qualified telephone triage nurse prevents these patients from improperly self-diagnosing and ensures that they get the treatment they need.

As telemedicine continues to expand into new services, providing innovative and cost-effective care, it is important to remember that the benefits reach beyond budgetary significance.  Nurse triage saves lives and provides comfort to those callers who are worried about their symptoms and would have otherwise gone to the ER. To date, a significant portion of the U.S. population does not have access to telephone nurse triage.  Implementing telephone medicine to a greater population can save lives and improve health outcomes. Contact us today to see how TriageLogic can help your patients get on the right path to care and avoid unnecessary ER visits.

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