Laura Clemons

Increasing Penetration of Nurse Triage Within a Healthcare Organization

by Laura Clemons | Mar 22, 2021

CENTENNIAL, CO.—When we last looked at ClearTriage in our December 2016 issue (“Triage for the Group Practice”), the company was providing software featuring the Schmitt-Thompson Office Hours protocol set and selling it to group practices. At the time of our last story, the company had 150 customers. 

It is a much different story today. The company not only handles the Schmitt-Thompson Office Hours protocol set but also the Schmitt-Thompson After-Hours protocols. “We’ve grown beyond group practices and now sell to a number of clinics, hospitals, after-hours call centers and insurance companies,” says President Dave Schmitt. “We have 500 clients now, which are more than triple what we had three years ago. We rarely are selling to an organization that is replacing their system with ours. The largest number of customers are starting a nurse triage program or wanting to use a standard consistent set of protocols rather than just having nurses using their own skills and judgment to do the triage.”


The company’s growth seems indicative of a general strength in the adoption of nurse triage in the country. However, Schmitt does have some caveats on the adoption cycle. “Nurse triage is most commonly supported in larger organizations, clinics and in Federally Qualified Health Centers,” he says. “It is also supported by a much larger set of pediatric practices than adult practices.”

In the pediatric realm, parents have concerns about their children’s health and want a nurse after-hours to be able to talk with, he adds, saying that this is an important customer service feature of the pediatric practice. Adults, though, can be a different matter. “Many adults feel they understand the level of care that they need and don’t need to talk to a nurse,” he says.

Yet, having people evaluated for the right level of care needed can be a positive for the health delivery system. That is one reason why this past spring the company released a new product SymptonScreen™, which can be used standalone or integrated with Epic. It is designed as screening support for unlicensed staff under two principal scenarios: one is for nurse triage services that use unlicensed staff members to front-end calls; the other is for schedulers handling requests for appointments. 

This replaces the sheet of paper that lists a number of trigger words that many unlicensed individuals or schedulers may have at their desks. If the caller uses these words or phrases this can indicate that the call must be warm transferred to a nurse right away.

With SymptomScreen, red, yellow and green colors are used to signify where the call needs to go. A number of symptoms are covered including: cough, abdominal pain, insect bites and sore throats. Only a few questions are asked that help sort things out. The reason why it is only a few is that calls may come in pretty rapidly and there is only so much time the unlicensed individual can spend with any particular caller. For the triage call, the unlicensed individual would ask these questions and, if certain responses come in, the call be classified red and would move to high priority in the queue. Other answers would go into the yellow and green classifications and be placed in the regular queue.

For scheduling call centers, if the questions indicated red, then the call would be warm transferred to a nurse. If yellow, then perhaps a same day appointment would be indicated and, if green, then a next day appointment might be acceptable.

  • nurse triage
  • Call Center

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