By Ravi Raheja, MD
The past few years have seen more services become “on demand” for consumers. Companies such as Netflix, DVR, and Amazon have created a society where products and services are available quickly and on demand. Healthcare is no different. Patients today expect the same fast and always available service from providers. While it is important to never compromise the care given; convenient, affordable access to healthcare has never been more necessary in America’s marketplace.
Many patients choose to spend a few moments clicking through pages on the Internet to diagnose and treat themselves when medical symptoms arise instead of visiting the doctor’s office. BMJ reports studies that have shown this is an inadequate method of treating illnesses resulting in only about a 34 percent success rate in properly diagnosing the issue on the first attempt. Patients who speak to a medical professional are able to ensure the treatment received is appropriate for their symptoms. It is up to the providers and the healthcare system to make resources available to allow patients to speak to a medical provider any time of the day, any day of the week.
The increasing demand for immediate care has given rise to multiple companies who provide easy access to a doctor using a telemedicine platform. While convenient and available “on demand,” these solutions have some drawbacks. First, some physicians worry about continuity of care with patients using different doctors and groups based on who is available. In addition, these visits tend to cost an additional out of pocket expense from the patient and most of the time the physician gives the same advice that a trained registered triage nurse would have provided.
Call centers with trained registered nurses are in the perfect position to make their services available to the communities and brand the organization they serve. The only thing they are missing is the proper technology to enable consumers to access their call center. This requires a mobile connected call center platform and appropriate mobile apps. This set up would also allow the call center to offer services to employee groups and businesses in addition to physician groups and community lines that they traditionally serve.
Even when nurse triage service is provided to consumers directly, appropriate technology allows the call center to send the encounter to the patient’s primary care physician on request. This allows for the best possible care for the caller while still maintaining continuity of care with the primary care physician.
Giving people easy access to a triage nurse via a mobile app is the first step in expanding access. It also allows the call center to expand services to telemedicine visits with a doctor as telehealth becomes more prevalent. The nurse can screen the callers and direct people to the appropriate urgent care center or ER if an in-person visit is needed. Over 50 percent of the time the nurse can handle callers’ concern with reassurance and home care advice. For the times when a telehealth consultation is appropriate, the nurse can schedule the visit and provide the caller and physician with the appropriate resources to connect via two-way secure video at a scheduled time.
Just a few years ago very few people were talking about e-visits with a doctor. Now we hear about it daily. Call centers should consider adapting their call center platform and adding mobile access to their clients to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape in consumer driven healthcare.
In today’s age, patients want efficiency, humanity, reliability, personalization, and warmth. Patients want their time and their opinions respected by friendly and helpful healthcare providers and staff. In addition, more patients want easy and quick access to their healthcare professionals at all times. Availability of a nurse triage service and smartphone app can provide the communication and ease of access patients seek while also allowing physicians to be sure they are providing continuity of care with the highest quality of standard care.
Ravi Raheja is the medical director of TriageLogic. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of quality telephone nurse triage services, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves 7,000 physicians and covers 18 million lives nationwide. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com.