by Ravi K. Raheja, MD, CEO
Health care providers are increasingly seeing a demand for improved patient care, continuity of care, and more efficient care. At the same time, they are seeing a push towards better utilization of health care dollars. Telephone triage plays an important role in helping satisfy these demands. Telephone triage is still a relatively young field, and there is still a lot of room to improve health care by implementing effective telephone triage. The reason why telephone triage is so important is that triage nurses provide patients with improved access to health care, and they provide continuity with care providers, all while decreasing overall health care costs.
First, in good call centers, updated, standardized protocols and advanced triage systems, which ensure that patients receive the highest quality standard of care and that all calls get documented. Second, 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.
All of this makes sense intuitively, but the data also needs to be collected and reviewed to demonstrate cost effectiveness and better patient outcomes. It is also important that the data project budgets for future programs, so that we can continue to satisfy the demand for better and more efficient care. Efficient care and budget can only be accomplished if the triage center has the knowledge and resources to provide three things: 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.
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.
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 our nurses. Our staff includes 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.
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. In sum, a good triage call center is able to improve patient care, save time for the caregivers, and improve utilization of health care dollars.