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As early as 1964, the U.S. National Institute for Mental Health and the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute began utilizing tele- medicine technology to provide education and consultations between specialists and general practitioners. (Allen, 2006) Today, the use of telemedicine has expanded greatly to not only provide education, but also consumer medical and health information, remote patient monitoring, and diagnostic assistance.
BENEFITS OF TELEMEDICINE
According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine offers several benefits including:
- Improved access to patients regardless of the distance between the patient and physicians.
- Cost Efficiencies through the reduction of healthcare costs combined with an increased efficiency in the management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
- Improved quality. Studies have shown that services delivered through telemedicine are as good or better than those provided through traditional, in-person consultations.
- Patient Demand. Tele- medicine provides the greatest impact on patients, their family, and their community as it reduces their travel time and related stresses.
THE GOLD STANDARD IN TELEPHONE CARE
More than 30 years ago, doctors Bart Schmitt, a pediatrician from Colorado, and Dr. David Thompson, an ER doctor in Chicago, began development of a decision support protocol program for pediatric and adult triage. Schmitt-Thompson Protocols have become the gold standard in telephone care.
Schmitt and Thomson developed a comprehensive list of protocols and put them in a database so they can be used as algorithms with computer systems. These protocols are now used by over 400 call centers around the country as well as internationally.
Why Schmitt-Thompson Protocols Work
Schmitt and Thompson recognized the need for consistent clinical content sets for every contact point. As such, they developed content sets for:
- After Hours
- Office Hours
- Patient Advice
In addition, the protocols are symptom-based so they are comprehensive in the sense that no matter what specialty and primary care doctor is involved, when the office is closed these protocols will cover over 99% of all symptoms. As a result, the triage nurse will always have a guideline that will apply to the patient’s situation.
Additionally, the protocols work because Schmitt-Thompson are very thorough in their review of the guidelines, and in keeping them updated. Each set of guidelines is reviewed by a panel of nurse consultants, medical directors, primary care providers, specialists, and ER doctors. The guidelines go through three revisions before they are ever released. And, every year Schmitt-Thompson receive feedback from end-users of the guidelines, and incorporate the feedback to create new and updated guidelines as needed.
Since over 90% of nurse triage centers use the same standard guidelines, Schmitt-Thompson have the experience and feedback to continue to develop the standard of care in the nurse triage industry.
Having reliable and updated guidelines is the backbone to allowing nurses to act as an extension of the physician, and provide the same standard of high quality care regardless of which doctor takes the call.
THE TRIAGELOGIC CONNECTION
While these protocols are available in book format, call centers and office nurses often find books cumbersome and difficult to use. For that reason, TriageLogic offers these protocols in electronic format in both our Call Center Software™, and myTriageChecklist™ (formerly Office Software Solution™). Our software products can include any of the Schmitt-Thompson protocols depending on whether patients are being triaged during office hours or after hours.
Allen, R.. (June 2006). A Brief History of Telemedicine. In Electronic Design. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from http://electronicdesign.com/components/brief-history-telemedicine.
American Telemedicine Association. (n.d.). What is Telemedicine?. In American Telemedicine. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from http://www.americantelemed.org/learn.
Schmitt-Thompson. (n.d.). Content Sets. In Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content. Retrieved March 31, 2013, from http://www.stcc-triage.com/.