Understanding Alternative Destinations in 911 Nurse Triage

Updated: May 25, 2020

911 Nurse triage has the capability to safely and efficiently divert 911 callers away from an ambulance ride to the emergency department to a more appropriate care destination. The capability is revolutionary. Many front-line EMS providers (including myself) have arrived on scene and found a patient that was standing at the curb with their bags packed and requesting a ride to the hospital. Surely that was not what the founders of EMS had thought ambulances would be utilized for, especially not at the frequency that this plays out across the country today.

As many states are starting to loosen the requirements for ambulance transportation dispositions, locations such as urgent care centers, mental health facilities, and dental services are becoming real alternative options for 911 callers. Nurse triage expands on this process and allows for nurses to connect callers to a wide range of resources instantaneously and at later points in time.

For example, if the patient needs medical resources that are not emergent, but are still urgent, the nurse can help the caller find an urgent care clinic, primary care provider, dentist, retail clinic or other specialized service or even connect them to a telehealth visit with a provider to resolve their medical problem. The resolution of the patient’s problem is swift and cost-effective.

The added benefit of nurse triage is that if the caller does not need an urgent resource, their care can be navigated to a wider range of appropriate resources that can connect with the patient at a later time. The multitude of resources available includes social support organizations, state, county, and local health departments, community paramedic programs for program enrollment, counseling services including mental health agencies, and primary care coordination centers. These coordination resources are key to guiding patients to care resources that are not traditionally accessible through the 911 system.

Each patient who is successfully redirected to a non-traditional disposition represents a saved ambulance trip and an emergency department visit. Treating these patients in the right location at the right time provides better care outcomes, value, and savings to the community and EMS system as a whole.

TruTriage works with your organization to identify appropriate disposition options in your community. The key piece of this process is developing what parameters will be applied to ensure that patients referred to these alternative destinations are appropriate in order to ensure quality patient care.

Diverting patients from an ambulance request for transportation in the emergency department is a delicate process that must be navigated with tact. TruTriage nurses are trained specialists in care coordination and leverage their expertise to provide high-quality care and caller satisfaction.

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