By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
The pandemic accelerated the use of telemedicine, and indications are that it’s here to stay. Patients and families have largely embraced it as a convenient means of medical care for concerns and questions that do not require an in-person visit, while more providers—including primary care and specialists—have continued to adopt it. As a result of the increasing demand for telehealth, the triage nurse protocols written by Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Thompson contain updated support for triage nurses to schedule telehealth visits.
In addition, the medical community faces two new challenges from COVID. First, the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant; and second, the rise in patient callers who are nervous and confused about whether their mild-to-moderate symptoms are indications of infection. One of the best options that practices can implement to offset these concerns is by coupling their telehealth with telephone nurse triage.
Leverage Gold Standard Protocols
Most telephone nurse triage relies on protocols developed by Drs. Schmitt and Thompson to assess patient symptoms and provide dispositions on whether to seek emergency medical care. Updated to address COVID-19, the protocols were particularly beneficial to callers during the height of the pandemic
Maximize Patient Coverage
Social distancing and telehealth have created an influx in patient calls in addition to normal appointments. But in-house staff may feel limited in being able to address all of them, especially when patients call after-hours. This is where nurse triage can complement a practice’s efforts by acting as an extension of the practice to evaluate patient symptoms, schedule appointments, and offer customized orders.
More importantly, most telephone triage services are available 24/7.
Improve Telehealth Services
Not only can triage nurses schedule patient appointments for a practice, but they can also use protocols to determine whether those appointments are eligible for telehealth. Effective telehealth documents all calls and dispositions. Then it shares all documents with the nursing staff and providers, including telehealth eligibility and the rationale for it.
This reduces the stress on an inhouse team to manage these appointments, provides a seamless process for callers, and allows a practice to increase its capacity for seeing in-person patients with more urgent needs.
Customize Instructions for Eligibility
Telehealth and telemedicine services differ from other offerings; this requires customized instructions for triage nurses to know which ones a practice offers. When a nurse decides telehealth eligibility, that determination depends on whether the healthcare symptom can be resolved over the phone.
Telehealth is expanding to fill a new and critical role in the effective provision of healthcare services.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the CTO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2007, TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of quality nurse telehealth technology, remote patient monitoring, and medical call center solutions. The TriageLogic Group serves more than 9,000 physicians and covers over 25 million lives nationwide. To learn more, call 800-723-4290 or go to https://triagelogic.com/contact-us/.