Teletriage May Reduce Misuse of Emergency Departments

Filtering out non-emergent cases eases chaos and educates the public about health care options

FRIDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- A teletriage program based on standardized guidelines and protocols was potentially helpful in alleviating the chaos in emergency departments caused by misuse by non-emergent cases, according to an article published in the June issue of the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

Mary Bossier Beardon, of the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital in Houston, and colleagues describe how the "Ask Your Nurse" program aimed to provide residents of Harris County, Texas, which has a high proportion of low income and homeless people, with information on health care options available to them, to reduce inappropriate use of emergency services and increase access to health care for those without health insurance.

The service operates 24 hours a day and is based on computer-generated, medically approved written protocols and staffed by experienced nurses from a variety of specialties. By diverting non-emergent cases with health insurance to private primary care providers, the program has succeeded in reducing unnecessary use of emergency department services.

"As the program continues to receive positive publicity and more of the general public becomes aware of our services, we anticipate that the burden placed on local emergency departments will diminish and appropriate venues for health care will be better used," the authors write.

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