Nurse triage is the process of having an experienced nurse evaluate an employee’s medical needs and direct medical care by determining the appropriate level needed. Employers who do not have their own on-site medical clinic are turning to nurse triage as a means of controlling and impacting workers compensation cost.
Nurse triage companies operate a call center where experienced, trained nurses are available on a 24/7/365 basis. Also, employers who do not staff their on-site medical clinic during all shifts are using nurse triage to cover their employee’s medical needs when their clinic is not open. (WCxKit)
When an employee is injured on the job, the employee and/or supervisor reports the accident direct to the nurse triage company where a trained nurse talks with the employee. The nurse, using proven interviewing techniques, listens carefully to the employee’s description of the accident. He or she asks detailed questions and focuses on the employee’s medical needs. By using treatment protocols and sophisticated medical software, the triage nurse is able to provide an injury assessment. Based on the triage nurse’s assessment of the severity of the injury, the most appropriate level of care and the proper course of treatment can be determined. Then, a decision is made as to where the employee should be sent for medical care.
If the medical care cannot be provided by the employer’s on-site medical clinic or by administering first aid on-site, the triage nurse refers the employee to a preferred medical provider in their network (set up in advance) best suited to provide the medical care needed. By directing the employee to the most appropriate level of medical care, optimum medical care is provided sooner. This also eliminates expensive emergency room visits and prevents the employee from starting medical treatment with a medical provider only to be transferred to a different medical provider later.
1- A key benefit of using nurse triage is the transfer of making initial medical decisions from the employee’s supervisor to a trained medical professional. The employee’s supervisor may discourage the employee from having the needed medical care, as the supervisor wants the employee at work, or the supervisor will send the employee to a medical provider not best suited to treat the employee’s injury. Triage nurses are experienced RNs with recent clinical experience who are specially trained to do this job, and the training centers are impressive. I have toured Medcor’s training facility which is state of the art.
2- The nurse triage will notify the medical provider of the employee’s injury and advise the medical provider to expect the employee’s arrival. This is immediately followed by the claim being reported to all appropriate entities including the risk management department, safety, human resources and the work comp claims office. By addressing the injury immediately with the employee, the employer and insurer have the greatest chance of influencing the cost and overall outcome of the claim. If arrangements have been made with the nurse triage company, they can gather all the information needed and file the first report of injury with the claims office and the appropriate state government entity.
3- Nurse triage can also assist with early return-to-work programs by obtaining an employee’s job description and providing the job description to the medical provider. When the medical provider indicates light duty restrictions instead of returning to work full duty, the triage nurse will contact the employer with the details of the light duty restrictions. A timely determination is made on the employer being able to accommodate the restrictions and place the employee back on the job.
4- A triage nurse’s immediate involvement in a workers compensation claim shows all employees their physical well being is important to the company. The leads to a higher level of morale and trust in the employer. It also provides a big benefit for the employer – bottom line savings on the cost of their workers compensation – as the benefits of nurse triage greatly outweighs the cost for the employer. The nurse triage company can provide your company a cost benefit analysis that will show you the savings generated from using a nurse triage company.(WCxKit)
5- Nurse triage provides a way for the employer to be proactive in the management of workers compensation claims while at the same time being compassionate to the employee’s injury and needs. During a recent assessment of 20 locations of a trucking company using nurse triage, we found that the immediate conversation with the nurses turned many potential lost time claims into either med only claims or “self-care” claims where the employee could ice the injury, for example, and remain at work with his or her ankle inclined.
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Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing, publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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