One in 10 parents who call a nurse telehealth line on behalf of their infant is told to go to the ER.
A telehealth line can be a great tool to help parents navigate early childhood. Still, it is sometimes difficult for parents to understand when calling a telehealth nurse is necessary for the safety of their children. Continuwell provides families with access to nurses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing them to talk through the symptoms their child is experiencing before going straight to the ER. In this article, we present data on the advice given to parents when calling a telehealth line. We also discuss the main symptoms that are associated with a need to take the infant to the ER.
When children are sick it disrupts the flow between work and family life. While a parent is at work with a sick kid at home, they are distracted and their levels of productivity may dip. They also may take the day off, resulting in a stall in work and projects being able to move forward, not to mention the cost of having an employee absent. Continuwell nurses are there to offer advice and peace of mind, making the call whether it is necessary to visit the ER or not. This case study highlights how Continuwell is the best choice when it comes to your health and the health of your family.
We studied treatment advice data from our telehealth call center for the months of April, May, and June 2016 and evaluated the advice given to patients ages one and under. In those three months, our nurses spoke with close to 42,000 callers and 9,400 were parents calling about their infants under the age of one. Graph 1 shows results of the disposition, or level of care required for the symptoms, for all the callers to our center.
Graph 1: Disposition given by Telehealth Nurses to 41,883 patients that called for the months of April, May and June 2016.
Are Infants and Newborns More Likely to be Sent to the ER Than the General Population?
Next, we considered the disposition determined by our telehealth nurses for infants ages one and under. We initially predicted that infants would have the highest incident of ER or Urgent Care dispositions, with newborns having the highest rate of ER referral. Graphs 2 and 3 present the data for infants. Because of the different nature of care advice for newborns, we separated newborns between 0 to 16 weeks and infants between 17 weeks and one year.
Contrary to what we predicted, we found that infants are sent to the ER at a much lower rate than the average population. The results are as follows:
- More than half of the infants were given home care advice. In comparison to our adult care advice statistics, this is more than double the percentage of adults given home care advice. (read the result on adult triage here)
- Infants have a relatively low ER referral rate: only 1 in 10 infants are sent to the ER.
- Newborns have a higher incidence of being sent to the ER than infants, but this rate is still much less than that of adults. Roughly 2 in every 11 newborns are sent to the ER, compared to almost 1 in 3 adults.
Graph 2: Disposition Given by Telehealth Nurses to 6,464 Infant Callers (17 weeks to one year) for April, May and June 2016, Including Top 5 Reasons for ER Disposition
Graph 3: Disposition Given by Telehealth Nurses to 2,955 Newborn Callers for April, May and June 2016, Including Top 5 Reasons for ER Disposition
When is a symptom serious?
Our Continuwell nurses use the Schmitt-Thompson protocols with each caller to determine the level of care needed. In this three month study, we discovered the top five protocols used when determining that an infant or newborn needed to go to the ER or urgent care.
The top symptoms that infants, 17 weeks to one year, were told to go to the ER or urgent care were:
- Vomiting (with or without diarrhea)
- Wheezing (non-asthma)
- Head injury
The symptoms that lead to newborns being directed to the ER or urgent care were slightly different. They included:
- Acting sick
- Head injury
- Vomiting without diarrhea.
While not everyone with the above symptoms needs to go to the ER, it is important to know these symptoms could be the sign of a serious illness and to contact a medical professional for assessment. Continuwell is a perfect bridge to provide free 24/7 access for members and their families to ask a trained nurse questions. In addition, parents tend to be more comfortable calling a nurse because nurses are trained to provide comfort and evaluate if a symptom even requires a doctor visit. Using Continuwell can either save a family from needlessly going to the ER or urgent care center and provide peace of mind for the parent, or ensure that the infant gets immediate care in order to prevent further complications. The Continuwell service will allow employees to focus on the tasks at hand and remain productive, after developing a care plan with a Continuwell nurse.