After-hours telephone triage has become an important resource for hospices facing staffing shortages or who are concerned about nursing staff burnout. But there are a lot of myths out there about the role of after-hours telephone triage, particularly as it relates to hospice care. This blog will dispel the number one myth and clarify the role of after-hour telephone triage for hospice.

#1 MYTH: Telephone triage means making diagnoses and providing care over the phone

Telephone triage services can improve the continuity of care, prevent unnecessary visits to the emergency room, reduce patient anxiety, provide education, and increase patient satisfaction. But it is a myth that after-hours telephone triage means making diagnoses or providing nursing care over the phone.

This summer, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) Director of Regulatory and Compliance issued some recommendations for the use of after hours on-call services to clear up the confusion. It addressed the myth by reminding members that hospice organizations need to employ a sufficient number of on-call nurses to meet the 24/7 nursing needs of their patients. It also reminded members that if they are employing a telephone triage vendor, they need to make sure they have procedures in place to ensure that the nursing needs of patients are met by hospice-employed nurses.

AfterHours Triage (AHT) provides telephone triage for hospice organizations nationwide with a team of registered nurses experienced in hospice care. Contrary to the myth, we do not provide any core services by making patient assessments or making updates to a plan of care. Your hospice IDG remains responsible for directing, coordinating, and supervising the care and services provided by your staff.

The real role of hospice telephone triage

After-hours telephone triage is designed to offer a layer of support for your hospice staff. It can reduce the number of after-hours visits needed, especially when effective triage is delivered by a registered nurse specifically trained in hospice care. It can also reduce the number of interruptions that an on-call nurse receives when the office is closed. This can help protect your staff from unnecessary visits that can lead to burnout. One hospice client used AHT to help bridge the gap when facing “a perfect storm” of staffing changes that left them short-handed. Read the Staffing Crisis Case Study.

The real role of AHT registered nurses who offer after-hours hospice telephone triage is:

  • Answering the call
  • Gathering information
  • Setting realistic expectations
  • Following your organization’s protocols and procedures
  • Contacting the on-call nurse when necessary

Finding after-hours support is easier than you think. See how AfterHours Triage can extend your services without extending your staff, contact us or call 888-260-8460.

Telephone Triage: Roles, Tools, and Rules by Sheila Wheeler, MSN, RN; Sheryl M. Ness; MA, RN, OCN