No, these are different processes. Optimal telephone triage is provided with the combination of an experienced registered nurse and a strong clinical decision support tool such as ClearTriage. With their experience, training, and clinical judgment, the nurse can perform a thorough triage of the patient.
SymptomScreen, on the other hand, allows unlicensed staff to do a quick screening of the patient. This screening process will not catch all possible complications of the symptoms being screened, only the most common ones.
Another way to compare the two processes: a telephone triage nurse will commonly spend several minutes triaging the caller (not including care advice provided). Using SymptomScreen, schedulers or call center agents spend on average 17 seconds asking the questions in SymptomScreen. Skipping the different clinical qualifications of the users, the time difference alone shows how different these processes are. SymptomScreen provides a rapid process to screen, not triage, patients.
Though you and your staff can technically begin using SymptomScreen immediately after your account is created, most organizations want to spend some initial time understanding and customizing SymptomScreen.
We find that for practices and smaller clinics, the implementation time is typically faster (between 1 week to 1 month). Larger call centers often need 1 to 3 months to implement SymptomScreen. Detailed implementation steps are listed in the SymptomScreen Implementation Guide.
Our customers who have tracked call handle time before and after SymptomScreen implementation find minimal impact on this measure. Some report slight increases, many report slight decreases. But the average screening time (between the agent selecting the first symptom and arriving at a priority) is 17 seconds. And that time is replacing interactions happening without SymptomScreen, so the overall impact is small.
Red flag lists are simple lists of specific symptoms that are meant to be handled differently than other symptoms (they are more urgent or emergent than other symptoms). These lists generally are difficult for users to adhere to and don’t result in a satisfactory prioritization of calls. For example, a problem arises when “apparently low-acuity complaints, which could be life-threatening problems in disguise, receive delayed attention because the patient didn’t say one of the ‘magic words’.” *
SymptomScreen provides better sorting of calls by giving agents specific questions to ask about the symptom(s) reported in order to gather additional data from the caller. This process can identify serious problems that might have been missed, and also reduce unnecessary calls going to the higher acuity queues. All of this is completed without any clinical decision making by the agent, allowing them to stay within their scope.
* From The Art and Science of Telephone Triage, page 426, by Carol Rutenberg and M. Elizabeth Greenberg.
No. Unlicensed staff such as Patient Service Representatives (PSRs) are given specific yes or no questions to ask for each symptom reported by the caller. If the caller says yes, maybe, or I’m not sure as a response to any question, the PSR marks that question as positive and follows the instructions they are given. All of this is reviewable and customizable by your medical staff, ensuring the clinical decisions are made in advance by the clinical team. This process enables and empowers the non-clinical staff to effectively screen and prioritize the calls but keeps clinicians in charge of the clinical decisions.
Yes. Patients often call with more than one symptom, it’s not in your unlicensed staff’s scope or training to decide which symptom is the most important. With SymptomScreen they add in all of the symptoms the caller is reporting and SymptomScreen provides a list of questions for that combination of symptoms. The logic for assembling these questions is easy to understand, there’s no magic behind a “black box” like many AI solutions. Everything is easy for your medical director or medical oversight team to review.
Largely no, because the questions in SymptomScreen are simple screening questions. They are generally the same for both adult and pediatric patients, with exceptions only as appropriate. The scenarios that require different questions are addressed by different guides for that symptom (e.g. Chest Pain – Adult and Chest Pain – Pediatric), questions about the patient’s age (e.g. “Age less than 1 year old”), or questions with both an age portion and some other criteria (e.g. “Age less than 3 months old and acting sick”).
Note that with the optional Epic and Cerner integration, the patient’s date of birth is passed into SymptomScreen and questions and guides that aren’t relevant to their age are filtered out. Even more valuable, age-related questions that are true are automatically selected for the agent (such as “Age less than 1 year old” for a 6 month old child).
Many calls for specialty clinics can be handled with the standard guides in SymptomScreen. However, if your specialty clinics want to screen symptoms differently, you have two options:
- Add questions to specific guides where being a patient of the specialty clinic matters. For example, in the Fever guide you might add a “Oncology patient and fever over 101º ” question.
- Create a guide for a particular clinic. For example, if adding several questions like the above to the Fever guide would make it difficult to use, you could instead create a new guide titled “Fever – Oncology or Hematology Patient” guide with questions selected by the directors of those clinics.
Remember that one of the benefits of SymptomScreen is standardizing how patients are screened plus being able to make improvements to that process through time. Are your specialty clinic patients being screened in a consistent manner now?
The screening guides were authored and continue to be updated by Dr. Barton Schmitt, MD and Senior Medical Editor of the Schmitt-Thompson protocols; Mikey Brewer, MPAS, PA-C; and Dr. Morgan Eutermoser, MD. All of our authors have had extensive experience in call centers and patient access. to learn more about the authors.
SymptomScreen updates are released on an as-needed basis, which is currently about twice a year. In the update process, the authors may choose to add new guides or make changes to existing guides or questions. These changes are largely driven by feedback and requests from SymptomScreen users.
SymptomScreen can be used on any desktop or laptop computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux/Chromebook). It also works well on a mobile phone (iPhone or Android) or on an iPad (iOS version 10 or higher).
ClearTriage runs in almost any web browser except Internet Explorer. Here is the minimum required version for common browsers:
Chrome: Version 42 or higher
Edge: Version 12 or higher
Firefox: Version 41 or higher
Safari: Version 10 or higher
In general SymptomScreen does not receive, store or transmit PHI (protected health information), so a BAA (business associate agreement) isn’t necessary and we don’t sign them with our customers. The exception is if you are using the optional Epic or Cerner integration and passing the patient’s date of birth into SymptomScreen. We don’t store the date of birth, but in that situation we will sign a BAA to reassure your organization.
SymptomScreen will work with any EHR or other software that stores information about your patients, their calls, and their symptoms. Customers are using SymptomScreen with Epic, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, athena, NextGen, Allscripts, Office Practicum, PCC, MEDITECH, eMDs, Point and Click, MEDENT, Elation, and other solutions.
You need one subscription for each person that will be using SymptomScreen. Specifically, each person who will be screening patient calls using SymptomScreen. You don’t need a subscription for testers or administrators.
We don’t need to know the names of the users, nor do we need to know if one person leaves your company and you hire someone else. You just need enough subscriptions for everyone screening calls with SymptomScreen.
There are no setup fees or hidden charges with SymptomScreen.
Yes, you can change your number of subscriptions at any time by . If you are adding subscriptions, we will charge you a prorated amount for the additional subscriptions so that all of your subscriptions renew at the same time. If you are reducing subscriptions, we cannot refund money but we can apply the prorated remainder to the next renewal of the remaining subscriptions.
You can cancel your subscriptions at any time by . Note that we cannot refund money for these subscriptions so it is best to let us know before your subscriptions renew. Also, if you do not pay your renewal fees, your subscriptions will automatically be canceled.
We take payments by check, ACH transfer, or credit card. Note that we require a credit card on file for any monthly subscriptions to support the recurring billing.
No. When you sign up for a free trial you will get a full 30 days to try SymptomScreen and there is no payment information required to get started.