Three telephone triage nurses finding the appropriate level of care for their patients

What Are Triage Levels?

Triage levels indicate the appropriate level of care for each patient depending on the symptoms they are experiencing and their medical history. These different triage levels can include dispositions such as “call 911 now”, “go to the emergency room”, “urgent care visit”, “primary care”, “telemedicine visit within 24 to 48 hours”, or more frequently “home care”. Determining the appropriate triage level in a quick, effective manor is critical for patient safety, peace of mind, and cost-effective care.

Patient Safety

It may be difficult for a patient who has a symptom to determine by themselves how dangerous the symptom really is. A survey conducted by the American Heart Association shows that nearly 1 out of 3 adults had symptoms of a stroke, but did not call for medical help. Some people tend to ignore symptoms because they are too busy or do not have easy access to a healthcare professional but ignoring these signs and symptoms can lead to a worse outcome. In the case of a stroke, every minute is critical, and every minute lost can lead to adverse effects that may impact the patient the rest of their life.

Peace of Mind

When a patient is experiencing a symptom, they may also be worried about compounding issues such as the time of the day, other commitments, or the potential cost of care. A triage nurse will review all symptoms that the caller is experiencing, their medical history, and other concerns. The nurse will further assist the patient by creating a plan of care that is reassuring to the caller and provides an independent opinion.

Cost-Effective Care

Cost-effective care is critical due to patients that have high deductibles or who are a part of a self-funded company. Unneeded emergency room visits can run over $2,000. But on the other hand, not calling for medical help can have lifelong adverse outcomes. Determining the appropriate level of care can prevent a patient from any unnecessary costs or even save their life.


Having a nurse triage system helps alleviate the influx of patients into the emergency room and can also be the determining factor to reach the best level of care for the patient. To properly separate patient’s conditions into levels of severity, the right questions must be asked in the right order. TriageLogic nurses use Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content protocols to assist with information collection, decision making, and further direction. For tips on asking the right triage questions to provide correct patient dispositions, read this article or download FREE Schmitt-Thompson protocols here.