Picture this. One of your nurses arrives at a home for an after-hours hospice visit, and within minutes, another family attempts to call her with a question. Her phone rings. She does not answer her phone, but the family in the home, sitting with their dying loved one, hears the phone ringing, and senses ever so temporarily that they are vying for this nurse’s attention.
Meanwhile the caller, also in need of a nurse’s assistance, is waiting. Should the in-home nurse ignore the call for the duration of her time with her patient, the person calling the nurse might wait 30 or even 45 minutes before speaking with someone and getting an answer to his question.
This scenario can lead to burnout for the nurse in question, since she knows that none of these people — the family in the home or the caller on the phone and that person’s loved ones — are receiving the best patient experience possible, to no fault of her own. This gap in service can impact the hospice’s CAHPS score and damage referral relationships, but even more important is how it impacts the patients and their families.
To create the best patient experience, hospices need an after-hours triage service that directs calls to other nurses — a nurse-first system that helps patients and family members in the most trying times reach a calming voice and a guiding hand as quickly as possible. IntellaTriage delivers that help, assisting these patients in three ways.
Nurses in the field can remain focused on their patient
There are a variety of reasons why a hospice nurse is the home after-hours, whether on the weekend or overnight. They might be there due to a change in the patient’s condition or a problem with medication management. Sometimes, certainly, they are on a death call.
Caregivers and family members will be highly stressed during these situations, so hearing the nurse’s phone ring or vibrate — even if she doesn’t answer it — can be unnerving for all involved.
“It’s disruptive to providing that calming care, especially at 1 in the morning,” says IntellaTriage CEO Daniel Reese. “It can really make the family and the patient receiving the visit feel like they are just another number, and that you’re not fully engaged with them.”
Instead, IntellaTriage is able to divert these calls to a team of trained hospice nurses, creating a much more pleasant experience for the family in the home, the one making the call and the nurse in the home.
Families making calls get quick, nurse-first communication
Someone calling a hospice for help after hours needs assistance immediately. But a long wait can stress them further, and might even lead them to panic and call 9-1-1 for help. Even with the assistance of other hospice call centers, the patient and family might have an average wait time of eight to 10 minutes.
A hospice that uses IntellaTriage doesn’t have that problem.
“Our average wait time is 37 seconds,” Reese says. “Whether it’s 3 a.m. or 7 p.m., we’re trying to achieve an average wait of less than one minute, because that really ensures that the patient on the other end of the phone feels like they’re getting the right care, and when they need it.”
This is especially true when the question itself is simple. IntellaTriage estimates that its trained team of nurses can handle 60-80 percent of after-hours calls — questions, for instance, about whether someone can give a loved one a bit more medication.
“Something like that we can address quickly, and it’s resolved quickly, versus having to have a nurse call you back 45 minutes later,” Reese says.
“That connection with a nurse first is so crucial,” says Executive Vice President Suzi Meschbach, co-founder of IntellaTriage, “and one of the key differentiators that IntellaTriage offers.”
“In other models, the first person you talk to is an administrator, not a nurse,” Meschbach says. “With them, you’re getting an answering service or patient coordinator.”
Because of that timely, nurse-first communication, if a caller requires a home visit, the nurses taking the call can handle the backend work for the hospice agency to start the process of scheduling that visit. When the nurse finishes one visit, she can then immediately head to the next house. Contrast that with the traditional model where a patient on the phone could be waiting 20 to 30 minutes before they even hear back from a nurse.
“Instead, they’ve already talked to a nurse, they know it’s a process, and even if it takes 30 to 45 minutes to get there, they feel like they’ve already had a bit of resolution,” Reese says. “From personal experience, we know it provides a much better experience when they’re looking for someone to assist them.”
Continuity of care for patients
Perhaps the biggest advantage that IntellaTriage offers, Reese says, is its tailored approach — both to hospices and to patients and families.
IntellaTriage does two things here. First, it tailors its workflow, procedures and overall approach to each specific hospice agency.
“That way, when the patient calls in, they don’t know they haven’t reached the hospice directly,” Reese says.
Second, IntellaTriage takes a team approach to staffing, assigning each hospice a group of nurses. Nurses are trained on a given hospice’s EMR and its procedures, and assigned based on the skill level associated with the hospice.
As a result of that coordination, when a patient or family member calls the hospice, they are triaged to the nurses that best meet their needs. If a person calls the hospice three times, the odds are high that they will reach the same nurse all three times. That nurse already knows the caller, their needs and their case.
“You don’t have to explain your situation again,” Reese says. “That’s what we mean by ‘continuity of care.’”
This leaves patients and families happier than they would otherwise be. And since so much of hospice is driven by referrals, happier patients mean stronger referral relationships.
“It’s a little more expensive to provide the nurse-first model,” Reese says, “but we believe it truly is the best model for the patient.”
To learn more about how IntellaTriage can help your hospice provide the best possible patient experience, visit IntellaTriage.com.