Depending on who you ask, telemedicine is either the next step forward in the evolution of patient care—and one that will foster revenue growth in the process—or gimmicky technology that will drive unnecessary prescriptions and end up diluting in-person visits. JUCM News readers have read valid rationale from both perspectives. Either way, though, it’s a growing phenomenon that urgent care patients are noticing, and getting curious about. Some telemedicine calls are handled by call centers. Parents may be especially intrigued by the prospect of reaching out via phone, computer, or smart device instead of schlepping a sick child across town just to ask a question. The challenge, as noted in a recent blog post on MedPage Today, is that not all over-the-phone protocols are going to fit every patient, or every practice’s way of conducting patient care or business. As noted by the post’s author, Christopher Johnson, MD, properly run call centers can be effective gatekeepers for physicians during off hours; easy questions get answered by experienced nurses while only the more troublesome queries get passed along to the physician. The downside is that the answer to many questions poured into the protocols may be “visit the emergency room,” compounding the already vexing problem of unnecessary ED traffic. This begs the question, why not add urgent care into the mix? Adding that as an option between “Stay home and call the pediatrician in the morning” and “Go to the hospital” could provide welcome relief for parents while keeping costs down. Find out which pediatric practices in your area are using call centers, and open a discussion on possibly referring appropriate cases to one of your convenient locations.
Call Centers Send a Lot of Children to the ED. Why Not Urgent Care?