Common Questions Asked During Telephone Triage

Common Questions Asked During Telephone Triage

Some of the most common calls received from adults requesting telephone triage are concerned with abdominal pain. Insofar as calls regarding children, the two most common situations involve vomiting and high fever. Other common calls range from back pain and headaches to serious trauma situations requiring immediate treatment.

Telephone triage as an integral part of healthcare information service has been around for nearly 20 years. And during that time the roll of the health advocate program has changed with the times. Telephone Triage differs from other healthcare information systems because it is used to determine a specific and immediate response to a medical condition as opposed to offering health and wellness tips and referrals.

Telephone Triage service, by companies such as CareNet, is generally staffed by qualified Registered Nurses with practical work experience in a variety of medical settings including, pediatric care, hospital emergency room service and shared decision making counseling.

The Telephone Triage nurse uses a sophisticated AI software program that prompts the nurse through a series of questions to determine the severity of a caller’s medical condition and a recommended course of action. The software prompts the nurse based on previous responses. The goal is to reach a clinical conclusion by a process of elimination, working from the most severe condition down to a simple explanation of the caller’s non-actionable symptoms. The recommended appropriate care level can range from directing the caller to seek immediate aid from a hospital emergency room physician, to checking with primary care provider at the earliest convenience to self-care.

But decisions and conclusions derived from telephone triage are not solely made through software. The process of “Ask a Nurse” takes into account the training, experience and intuition of the nurse. Many times it is not what the caller say, but what is not said that can lead a to a course of action thru nurse triage. However, if at any time a telephone triage nurse determines that it is necessary to override the software, then a full report must be submitted and reviewed by an oversight team. In this way the AI system can be improved and updated, if necessary, to assure the highest level of care in determining the appropriate level of care recommended.

Most calls received through telephone triage are from adults on behalf of young children or women. And of these calls, nearly 3 out of 4 callers expressed concern over specific health related symptoms rather than general medical information. Although telephone triage is designed as a 24/7 service, the majority of the calls are made during normal business hours. But the 1 out of 3 callers take advantage of the service “after hours”. Overall, when asked, the callers reported that the service was helpful and ultimately resulted in understanding the correct course of action to take in their particular situation.

Telephone triage is a highly specialized field that most health service providers like CareNet take seriously. And that is a good thing.