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By Charu G. Raheja, PhD
We researched a sample of 71,716 calls from our telephone triage call center for the months of August, September, October and half of November 2011. Prior to triaging each patient, nurses randomly asked patients what they would do if they did not have access to a triage nurse. About half of the calls had an answer to the survey (35,559 calls). Out of these 35,559 patients surveyed: 11,135 patients said that they would have gone to the ER if they did not have access to a nurse triage. In addition, 1,819 patients would have gone to an urgent care center.
We study found that many patients seeking emergency healthcare during after-hours were able to resolve their health concerns by speaking to a nurse over the phone. Out of the patients expecting to go to the ER, a nurse triage line was able to prevent about 70% of the callers from going to an emergency room.
We estimate an average saving of over $60,000 per pediatrician by offering a nurse triage on-call program. The nurse triage on-call program was able to save healthcare resources and also improve overall care by making a nurse on call available to patients.