TriageLogic Founder and Chair
Health care providers are increasingly being asked to show improved patient outcomes through continuity of care. At the same time, there is a need to decrease costs through better utilization of health care dollars. Telephone triage has played an important role in satisfying these demands. Research clearly shows that nurse triage on call significantly decreases patient use of emergency rooms. But an important issue given the recent regulations and requirements by insurance companies is how to show cost savings from a nurse triage program.
There are several ways to show cost savings, and TriageLogicTM works very closely with our healthcare partners to help them document their savings. A key strength of TriageLogic is our detailed data management capabilities, based on our extensive experience in designing effective finance and business management systems.
For example, in my last letter, I discussed a survey of patients involving a sample of about 35,500 phone calls during August through November of 2011. Out of those patients, about 11,000 patients said that they would need to go to the ER if they did not have access to a nurse. Only a fraction of the patients planning to go to the ER actually needed immediate care (that is, only 30% of the callers were sent to the ER).
The cost savings and return on investment (ROI) implications from this result are significant. The average cost of an unnecessary visit to the emergency room is about $1,000, and based on our survey and the surveys of other published papers, about 70% of the people who go the emergency room would not need to be there if they could have talked to a nurse on the phone. Given that the cost of a nurse phone call is about $15 per call, this would mean a return on investment of 833%!
The figure below shows cost savings with and without nurse triage on call.
In this way, the nurse triage on-call program is able to save significant amounts of healthcare resources and improve overall care by making a nurse available to all patients, whether or not they seek emergency care. As shown above, the savings from the use of nurse triage can be documented, thus satisfying the current demands for improved patient care along with better and more efficient use of healthcare resources.