Nurseline service saves lives, costs for employers

Program generates loyal customers

A truck driver for a large freight company was hundreds of miles from home when he began having chest pains.

He used the cellular telephone supplied by his employer to call the nurseline, operated by Intracorp, a Philadelphia-based provider of health and disability services for insurers, third-party administrators, employers, governments, and managed care organizations.

The nurse listened to his symptoms, determined he probably was having cardiac-related symptoms, gave him information about the nearest hospital, and encouraged him to go there.

The truck driver went to the hospital where he got the care he needed to save his life.

Success stories like the truck driver’s are one reason that employers see a big benefit in contracting with companies that provide nurse triage services, says Kathleen M. Leone, vice president, utilization management for Intracorp’s Health Care Management unit.

"We have a lot of loyal customers because these types of products, in their judgment, have been proven time and time again."

Nurseline savings

Intracorp’s nurseline programs serve nearly 14 million consumers a year.

The company has more interest in its nurseline products today than ever before as more and more employers struggle to manage health care costs, Leone says.

"Employers see the benefit in providing their workers with these tools to allow them to take greater control of their own health," she adds.

However, statistics have shown that only 15%-20% of employees who are eligible use the Intracorp nurselines.

As a result, Intracorp has developed an initiative to encourage employers to communicate with their employees about the benefits of calling the nurseline with their health care questions.

The company has put together a collection of low- or no-cost tactics an employer can use to increase utility and awareness of the nurseline.

"We believe that the more they do to encourage the use of the nurseline, the more savings they will actually see," Leone says.

Much of the savings from nurselines is generated because the nurses are able to direct members away from the ED for care and to a more appropriate and less costly setting, she adds.

Intracorp has had nurseline since the early 1990s. The company offers three different types of product to meet the needs of a variety of different customer segments, from small employer organizations to very large managed care companies.

The company provides three levels of nurse support. The basic level offers 24 hours of nurse support, including information and triage. The next level also includes access to an audio health library with more than 1,100 topics and a more comprehensive communication packages for the employer to use.

The top level also includes proactive outreach, such as providing information for members who are scheduled for surgery and making follow-up calls after they are home.

"Not everybody who has an inpatient stay should be in case management. Nurseline nurses can provide the necessary support and education for some situations," she adds.

All of Intracorp’s nurseline services are based on nurse availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"If a consumer has any need to talk to a nurse, they can call the nurse line and get information and some guidance about whether care should be in the hospital, the doctor’s office or if self care can be possible," Leone says.

The nurses themselves do not make the decisions but arm the consumer with as much information as possible so the consumer can make the decision, she says.

The nurses match up information about the patients’ condition with nationally recognized decision-based guidelines that help them make a recommendation. The nurseline nurses have the same information as the case management or disease management nurses, so information at any point in a patient’s care is consistent.

The services include answering medical questions, providing self-care techniques for common symptoms, explaining treatment plans and technical terms, and helping consumers get access to in-depth, evidence-based information online.

If a caller to the nurseline is in a disease management program or currently in case management, the nurse can access all the patient information and help the caller make decisions based on that information.

"Whether it’s a case manager, a nurseline nurse, or a utilization manager, they all have access to the same case files and can add notes to it," she says.

For instance, if a patient who is being followed by a case manager for a particular condition calls in the middle of the night, the nurseline nurse alerts the case manager, who has immediate access to the nurseline nurse’s notes and can act accordingly.

"It’s a seamless operation. Our products are very well integrated," Leone says.

The nurselines are extremely popular with consumers, who give a lot of positive feedback on Intracorp’s annual customer satisfaction surveys, Leone says.

In addition to answering the questions, many respondents write in additional comments about how the nurse helped them understand what they needed to do, kept them calm in an emergency situation, such as a child’s asthma attack, and gave them advice that they found to be helpful.

"A lot of it is peace of mind," she says. All of the company’s services are on one platform with the patient at the center.