Telephone triage is well understood to be an effective tool for helping remote patients receive the care that they need. The chief question, then, is how to facilitate a telephone triage system within a medical facility. A partnership with a dedicated triage call center offers many incentives while remaining secure.
Many healthcare facilities adopt a call center in-house, but these systems are rarely capable of handling the necessary patient volumes, especially not when compared to using a large dedicated call center. Budgetary, staffing, and spacing restraints are often prohibitive of making in-house call centers profitable. A hybrid call center model—the combination of in-house and outsourced call center services—has served as the most effective system in hundreds of organizations around the country.
What is a Nurse Triage Call Center?
A triage call center, in many ways, is similar to other call centers. They generally follow standard office setting parameters with elevated hardware and telecommunication technology to send and receive a high-volume of calls. The bulk of calls to call centers dedicated to medical triage are from patients seeking medical advice. The role of the call center’s staff, then, is to provide preliminary care information and sometimes recommend the caller to an in-person healthcare provider.
The staff of a triage call center is a blend of non-clinical agents and medically-trained nurses. Non-clinical staff are chiefly in charge of managing calls and directing them to greatest effect, while triage nurses offer patient support over the phone, greatly reducing the number of patients that are directed to in-person care. Triage centers like CareXM are available to receive patients’ calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Triage Call Center?
Before deciding whether or not your facility wants to partner with a triage call center, facilities need to be sure that doing so will be beneficial to efficiency, revenue streams, and—most importantly—providing patient care. Fortunately, the benefits of such partnerships are well-documented, for both patients and providers.
Benefits to Patients
A dedicated call center is staffed by qualified and experienced triage nurses, so patients can receive satisfactory medical advice from the experts even while they themselves remain at home. Most centers have the available staff and other strategies in place so patient calls can be answered within one or two rings of the phone. This expedited service ensures that patients have their concerns addressed quickly.
This leads to perhaps the most important benefit of triage call centers. Centers are typically open 24-7, so patients have access to professional medical attention whether it’s in the middle of the night or Christmas morning. Without a long queue of people ahead of them in a waiting room, patients who call in are able to feel like the nurses attending to them can truly focus on providing their care. This in turn leads to lowered readmission rates.
Sometimes the triage nurse determines that an office visit is not required for certain conditions and that home care is a better solution. By determining this on the phone, patients are saved a trip to the doctor’s office. Alternatively, the nurse may determine that an in-office visit is required. In such cases, the triage nurse will communicate with the in-person medical staff to facilitate consistent care, without the patient having to repeat themselves to several people.
Benefits to Medical Facilities
In addition to better serving patients, partnering with a triage call center provides tremendous support to medical staff. It streamlines the work and results in decreased workloads, taking a load off of in-house medical staff. Because call centers offer 24-hour service, the onus for facilities to have staff on hand after hours is significantly reduced. This allows medical staff to avoid the burnout that is so common to employees working in 24-hour facilities
Overall, partnering with a call center helps medical practices achieve higher organizational efficiency and develop improved growth strategies. While containing costs, working with a call center boosts the volume of patients receiving care and improves the organization from the time the patient comes through the doors. This is particularly true during the busiest hours of the day. Call centers can also act as an emergency backup solution for patient calls.
As for the brass tax elements of running a healthcare organization, working with a call center generally results in improved emergency department metrics, nurse-patient interaction records, and cost containment. Working with a call center can also serve as an interim solution for subsidized future growth. All of these can help streamline the operation of the facility and improve patient experience, and satisfied patients are more likely to return.