Health care providers are increasingly being asked to show improved patient outcomes through continuity of care. At the same time, there is a demand to decrease cost through better utilization of health care dollars. Telephone triage plays an important role in satisfying these demands.
In good call centers, updated, standardized protocols and advanced triage systems ensure that patients receive the highest quality standard of care and that all calls get documented. Triage nurses decrease ER usage by directing patients to the necessary level of care. In this way, continuity, efficiency, and quality of care are greatly increased. Thus telephone triage is a critical piece by providing patients with improved access to health care and better continuity, all while decreasing overall health care costs.
Telephone triage is still a relatively young field, so there is a lot of opportunity to improve health care by implementing effective telephone triage.
Efficient care and cost savings can be accomplished if the triage center has the knowledge and resources to provide three essential components: well-trained and reliable nurses, cutting edge software that records multiple data points and runs reports while the nurses take phone calls, and a robust integration capability that allows for two-way connectivity between the client systems and the triage center software.
All of this makes sense intuitively, but data needs to be collected and reviewed to demonstrate cost effectiveness and better patient outcomes. ROI data is essential to justify expenses and project budgets for future programs.
As individual practices and health care organizations are pushed to provide better care while demonstrating lower costs, the reporting capabilities and data studies of the triage call centers are going to play a significant role in reimbursement and performance evaluation.
One of the best ways to show appropriate ER utilization is through pre – and post- call disposition surveys. Nurses first ask the caller what they would have done if they could not have talked to a nurse. The system then compares the pre-call disposition of the caller to the suggested disposition of the triage guidelines. This simple process can demonstrate significant savings by decreasing ER usage. Please see the letter from our Chair, Dr. Charu Raheja, where she describes the results from such surveys from our nurse-on-call center.
Another way to improve care is to make sure that the triage encounter information is relayed efficiently back to the primary care provider. This can be done by proper two-way communication between the practice EMR and the Triage Software. This process allows for efficient transfer of information and better follow-up, which results in better care and outcomes. A sophisticated triage system can provide an automated daily summary of all patients who called, so the office nurses can follow up on any urgent issues and make sure patients are coming in when needed.
TriageLogic is in a unique position to help provide this information since we developed and own the proprietary call center software that is used by some of the largest call centers in the country. Our staff includes physicians, nurses, programmers and researchers who ensure that we provide the best possible data and reporting tools. We also continue to add to our software and systems as new technologies and hardware capabilities develop.
In summary, a good triage call center is able to improve patient care, save time for the caregivers, and improve utilization of health care dollars