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by Rose Moon, RN, BSN
TriageLogic Clinical Education and IT Support Manager
Some “outsider” perspectives of the goals of telephone triage range from “Feeding a certain ER or healthcare center” to “Delaying needed medical care”. However, nurses who actually perform telephone triage know the truth:
The primary goal of the telephone triage process is to deliver safe, quality telephone advice partnered with outstanding customer service.
The Telephone Triage Process
To achieve this goal, the health, safety, and well being of the patient must be at the forefront of every encounter. The process of providing triage requires assessing the patient’s current symptoms while concurrently evaluating their past medical history and current medications. This assessment is guided by established medical protocols that help nurses direct patients to the appropriate level of care at the right time and in as cost-effectively a manner as possible.
Performing a “hands on” patient assessment allows the health care provider to visualize cyanosis, smell foul drainage, palpate an abdomen, and assess patients’ lung sounds. Telephone triage nurses do not have such luxuries, and they are limited to their ability to query and listen intently to the caller to obtain the necessary details of the patient’s medical symptoms and direct medical care accordingly.
Ensuring Quality Telephone Triage
The key to providing quality telephone triage services is to recruit, hire, train and retain experienced telephone triage nurses. To ensure quality patient outcomes, these nurses will need comprehensive, detailed orientation, as well as the tools of the trade: gold standard telephone triage protocols. Beyond simply providing the protocols, however, the definitive determining factor of quality phone triage lies in training nurses to properly utilize the protocol tool. After all, anyone can read a protocol.
A knowledgeable triage nurse applies her enhanced assessment skills, superior judgment, prior nursing experience and exceptional decision making abilities to the protocol tool, resulting in quality, cost-effective patient care.