It’s not always obvious where to turn when you get sick. Sometimes you’ll head for an emergency room, other times to an urgent care center. However, sometimes you don’t need to go to either. Memorial Hermann’s Nurse Health Line is a free telephone triage service, available in any language, which can help you determine the best course of action for you and your loved ones.
The Nurse Health Line is staffed by trained nurses 24/7 to help members of the Greater Houston community resolve immediate health concerns, inquire about a particular condition or medication, or get immediate answers to follow-up questions from a recent clinic appointment or hospital visit.
“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency rooms in southeast Texas were often at capacity, and facilities struggled to meet the needs of patients in a timely manner,” said Bryan Sisk, senior vice president and chief nursing executive with Memorial Hermann Health System. “A significant percentage of the volume of emergency room visits occurred, in part, because people did not have the clinical knowledge to assess the severity of symptoms of less emergent conditions and determine where to go for appropriate care. The Nurse Health Line is a place where people can go to get that information.”
According to a study published in 2013 by the University of Texas School of Public Health, more than 46% of all patients treated and released from emergency rooms in Houston were treated for primary care-related illnesses or injuries that could have been addressed in a physician’s office or clinic.
Based on this study, and informed by the consistent trend seen across hospitals in Houston, Memorial Hermann Health System established its Nurse Health Line in 2014 with the goal of improving community access to care and ensuring more efficient use of the emergency rooms in Harris and the surrounding counties.
“Last year alone, the Nurse Health Line was able to help 56% of the triage line callers, who would have otherwise sought care in an emergency department setting, find an alternative appropriate level of care (i.e. primary care); 99% followed the care advice,” Sisk said. “The savings for Houston-area emergency rooms is in the millions of dollars.”
Sisk adds that during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, when the public wasn’t sure whether to go to the ER with COVID-19 symptoms, Memorial Hermann created a Nurse Triage COVID-19 hotline, operated by our Nurse Health Line, to rapidly assess callers’ symptoms and concerns and direct them to the appropriate level of care.
The Nurse Health Line is accessible to anyone regardless of their insurance status or if they have ever established care with Memorial Hermann or any other hospital or health system. Just last year, 45% of callers were uninsured or on Medicaid. Other Nurse Health Line services include emailing the most current CDC information, verifying local testing sites, assisting with virtual visit websites, reviewing discharge home care instructions and providing reassurance to concerned callers.
“We are incredibly proud to offer this service to the community,” Sisk said. “No matter what language you speak, your insurance status, zip code, or where or from whom you typically receive care, anyone can call our Nurse Health Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and access immediate help free of charge. It is a truly unique program and we hope even more people will use this vital service.”
To access the Nurse Health Line, call (713) 338-7979 or toll-free (855) 577-7979 to speak with a nurse, or visit www.nursehealthline.org for more information.
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