Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Telephone Triage

He had been becoming increasingly short of breath over the past three days. He could now only sit upright, leaning forward. Words came quickly.


“Yes, dear?”

“Call…*gasp* the…*gasp* doctor…”

‘Yes, dear. Right away.”

Let’s see … 1 - 8 - 4 - 7 ..."
“Hello, you have reached the office of Drs. X, Y, and Z… We apologize we cannot come to the phone right now, but all of our secretaries or receptionists are busy helping another customer. If you feel this is a real emergency, hang-up and dial 911…”
No emergency now, she thought, he just needs to talk to his doctor.
"If you’re calling between the hours of 12:00 and 1:00, our office will be closed for lunch…"
“Honey? *gasp*”

“Yes, dear?”

“Any *gasp* answer?”

“Not yet, dear…”
... "If you’d like to get the location to our offices, press '1', if you’d like to make an appointment, press '2'…"
“Honey! *gasp*”

“Yes, dear?”

“What’s *gasp* goin’ *gasp* on?”

"Just a minute, Harry!"
"...If you’d like to call regarding a prescription or prescription refill, press '5', if you’d like to inquire about our new office hours in Eastville, press '6', in Westville, press '7'…"
*Gurgle* *Gurgle* *Cough* *Wheeze*
“… or, if you’d like to leave a message, we’ll call you back later… or, if, you’d like, press “0” to speak with our receptionist. Press '*' to hear this selection again…"
A loud thud is heard in the background.

“Which office does Dr. Y usually see you, Harry?...”

. . .

“Harry? Harry?”


Anonymous said...

Dr. Wes, some of the new trends in medicine are really disconcerting. Telephone triage is one of them.

My insurance company periodically sends out reminders that they have a nurse powered telephone triage that they would like us to call before making appointments to see our physicians ...

The nurse - with perhaps 4 years of schooling - is going to tell me what I need over the phone, when it's sometimes difficult for my physician, with far more years of training, to do the same for me when we're nose to nose?

Today's trends are going to give a whole new meaning to "survival of the fittest" ...

Anonymous said...

Hmm, interesting comment about telephone triage, obviously from someone with little to no experience in medicine.

I'm a certified nurse midwife who worked in high volume, high risk labor & delivery units for many years prior to becoming a midwife. I'm also Ivy League educated. Not all nurses are as dim-witted as you made them out to be. I do telephone triage per diem for obstetricians. It's an easy job, and I enjoy chatting with the patients.

Then again, there would be no need for telephone triage if physicians would field their own phone calls after hours. Insurance companies wouldn't harrass you to call their "nurse lines" if a 15 minute consultation wasn't $500 for some specialists. Things have gotten a bit out of control in the world of medicine.