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Triage & Health Advice Reduce Non-Urgent Use of Emergency Services

The Truth About Nurse Answer vs. Nurse Callback Triage Models

Triage Call FlowAs consumer demand for clinical resources continues to grow, more and more health plans and hospitals are setting up nurse advice lines to provide convenient access to registered nurses, 24 hours a day. These services give consumers the opportunity to speak with a nurse at anytime just by dialing a simple toll-free number. 

When offering a nurse advice line service, you have two call model options: Nurse Answer and Nurse Callback. Truth is, both models are very effective in providing consumers with accurate health information and advice. But there are some significant differences you should be aware of before choosing a nurse triage call model.

What's the main difference?

  • Nurse Answer telephone triage services operate by having a registered nurse answer calls directly -- capturing demographics, reason for call, and all other caller details before moving onto the triage process. The nurse handles all aspects of the call.

  • Nurse Callback models incorporate a specially trained health service representative (HSR) who initially answers the triage call -- capturing caller demographics and the presenting problem, which is checked against a list of clinical "red flag" criteria to screen for emergencies. If the call is identified as a potential emergency, it's immediately routed to a RN. If the call doesn't meet the red flag criteria, the caller receives a callback from a nurse within an average of 30 minutes.

Which is the superior call model?

Both call models are effective, but here are some key reasons why choosing a Callback model may be the better choice for you and your patients:

  1. Improved risk management - Regardless of the call model, your nurse line will experience spikes in call volume. In a callback model, callers who have urgent medical symptoms are triaged first, rather than "waiting their turn" in the RN queue -- ensuring callers experiencing an emergency get the attention they need as quickly as possible.

  2. Appropriate use of specialty resources - Front-end screening allows calls to be routed to the most appropriate available RN. For example, a caller with a question about diabetes could receive a call back from a RN with specialized training in diabetes care, or a mother with a sick child could be connected with a RN who has pediatric experience.

  3. Better customer service - Not every call into your nurse advice line will be from consumers looking for health advice. In many instances, callers will reach the triage service looking for general, administrative information. HSRs are specifically trained to provide information on a wide range of topics and, if needed, transfer callers to more appropriate resources.

  4. Price - Nurse Answer call models are more expensive. By utilizing clinical resources much more efficiently, Callback models can significantly reduce the operating costs (and subsequent price) of the service, while delivering the same quality of care. 

provides both Nurse Answer and Nurse Callback models for our telephone triage services. Each model is
accredited by URAC and is extremely effective in connecting callers with registered nurses when they need it most.

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