By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Patient phone calls, and questions about whether symptoms require an office or emergency visit, are part of every busy medical practice. However, how do you train nurses to ensure that they give the appropriate care advice every time, while documenting caller information, symptoms, and dispositions?
If your team wants to decrease liability on these calls, implement software with medical protocols that document all this information. Choose a solution that employs time-tested protocols. This helps ensure each patient caller is directed to the appropriate level of care in an appropriate window of time, regardless of when they call.
Effective triage software is an easy-to-use solution for nurses that includes standardized protocols to address any patient symptom. It also includes thorough documentation with timestamps and the ability to customize triage and care instructions based on the needs of the practice. The information should be integrated with your EMR or able to be simply copied to an EMR file, ensuring continuity of care.
When it comes to avoiding liability as a triage nurse or healthcare provider, documentation is everything. Consider the following example of a doctor who took a patient’s call while out of the office. He couldn’t notate his care advice to the patient in their chart. In fact, the only option available to him was to scribble his notes on a napkin.
That patient went on to experience a medical complication, then subsequently sued the doctor by disputing what the actual care instructions were during their call. Thanks to that napkin though, the doctor had proof of what he’d said. Thankfully, nurse triage software is far more thorough.
Seek a solution with protocols that are easy to follow, are updated regularly as new healthcare issues develop, and can be customized with instructions specifically for your practice.
In turn, this ensures that nurses are prompted with the best questions to ask patients based on the severity of their symptoms and allow those nurses to document their thought processes as they triage each call. With this, all their interactions are recorded and easily accessible for reference.
The results? Nurses can shift their attention to their patients, and patients receive the correct outcomes, no matter which nurses they speak with. Another advantage is that all incoming calls receive the same quality of care or advice regardless of which nurses answer them.
Along with symptom severity, effective triage software allows nurses to record relevant patient history so that their dispositions for care are based on all their potential health factors. Nurses must be mindful of addressing callers objectively, avoiding stereotypes, and using their listening skills to evaluate symptoms in their entirety.
Triage software should include timestamps for pivotal moments recorded on nurse calls. These include when calls are received, when they’re returned, and when they’re completed.
Consider that the biggest threat to nurse triage is delayed patient care. As such, it’s critical that your nurses correctly address patients’ symptoms in a timely manner, advise them to seek care from the appropriate medical professionals, and have the documentation to back up their work.
Part of the nurse triage process is providing clear dispositions and follow-up instructions. If a patient’s condition suddenly changes, a nurse’s notes should reflect this change, as well as the triage advice they offered.
When patients are referred to providers, this documentation should also be easy to share with them. If it is, those providers can address those patients immediately and maintain a continuity of care, especially when their patients’ needs are urgent.
If a patient’s health begins to deteriorate, triage software should have instructions for the responding nurse to know how to expedite assistance from a referred provider. This should include a secure texting and chat option that lets nurses contact physicians, update them on the conditions of their patients, and close the loop on care.
Triage software can help ensure patients are directed to the appropriate level of care in an appropriate window of time. This decreases provider liability and improves patient care.
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 high-quality telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 25 million lives nationwide.
Contact them to schedule a demo and see how TriageLogic’s MyTriageChecklist solution can benefit your patient callers and their dispositions.