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Patient Empowerment, Passing the Baton

By Karen Brown, RN

Are physicians ready to deem their patients competent to make decisions about their healthcare, and are patients willing to take the responsibility?Baton sm

The challenge for the patient is to become educated on his or her health issues and treatment options—a daunting task for some patients. The challenge for the provider is to assess the patient’s knowledge level, but if there are deficits, the provider must provide the information at the appropriate literacy level and then assess the patient’s comprehension. This can be a difficult job for physicians because a patient’s anxiety level may impair his or her ability to understand the physician’s explanations or directives. The success of the patient empowerment process depends on the provider’s communication skills and patient’s knowledge or ability to gain knowledge. How does provider must define this new relationship to the patient?

I recently visited with a specialist because during my annual physical exam I had a positive pre-screening test for a condition. After we discussed the need for my visit, the physician defined our new relationship by saying, “You are the CEO of your healthcare. You are the final decision maker.” He continued to explain, “I, on the other hand, just serve on your board of directors. I will advise to the best of my ability, give you appropriate options, and you make the decisions.”

Immediately I became an engaged patient, and we became like two lab-coated colleagues, side by side with a common goal looking for the best solution. We reviewed the options for further diagnostic procedures as well as the likelihood that the preliminary screening was a false report. He invited me to review my electronic medical record along with him.

Ultimately I made the choice of following the least invasive and less costly option of doing some repeat pre- screening test followed by an appointment in 6 weeks to review those results. I will have the option at that time to choose another option based on what I know and the information I receive from my Board member. Completely comfortable with his advice and my decision, I left feeling a sense of partnership with my physician.

With every action he took during our visit, the physician skillfully transferred power over my healthcare to me with every action that he took during our visit, and a visit filled with anxiety turned into an exhilarating feeling that I could meet the challenge of managing healthcare and do what is reasonable and necessary without being overly aggressive. I left that office visit newly empowered and looking forward to my new role as CEO.

Admittedly, my medical background made this an easy role for me to assume. Due to age, anxiety, inability to understand, or other factors, many patients cannot assume this role as comfortably as I did. TeamHealth Medical Call Center’s patient engagement team speaks with patients every day who have misunderstandings about their disease process and treatment plan following a physician visit. But those patients’ deficits and barriers to learning can be addressed if a caring nurse can meet with them and discuss their conditions in the relaxed environment of their own home.

Our specially trained nurses actually hear the relief in their in their patients’ voices when the patient begins to understand their disease process and how they have the authority to make health decisions and take responsibility for their health. Often with just one phone call, a patient can be on the path to becoming an empowered patient who is prepared and ready to promote his or her health by partnering with a provider.


Karen Brown, RN, is the VP of Business Development for TeamHealth Medical Call Center. 

Karen Brown, TeamHealth Medical Call Center Leadership, VP of Business Development

Karen Brown, RN

Call 888-203-1118 to find out about TeamHealth call center services that support patient empowerment.

By |October 14, 2014|Blog, Patient Engagement|Comments Off on Patient Empowerment, Passing the Baton

TeamHealth Expands California Presence; Acquires Operations of Primary Critical Care Medical Group

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) Oct. 9, 2014 – TeamHealth Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:TMH), one of the nation’s largest providers of outsourced physician staffing solutions for hospitals, announced the acquisition of the operations of Burbank, Calif.-based Primary Critical Care Medical Group (PCCMG). Specializing primarily in hospital and critical care medicine, PCCMG provides clinical services through partnerships with four hospitals and two outpatient primary care clinics in the Southern California market. PCCMG also provides hospital medicine services for more than 100 hospitals throughout California through its contract with Kaiser Permanente. Through its contracts, PCCMG provides care for more than 100,000 patients each year.

“When evaluating partnership opportunities, we determined that TeamHealth was a natural fit,” said Bruce Gipe, MD, founder and medical director of PCCMG. “TeamHealth offers extensive resources in hospital medicine and emergency medicine management and provides unparalleled support for physicians and other clinicians. We are excited to join a provider-centric organization with a culture of high clinical and business standards.”

“TeamHealth’s strategy is to grow our business through partnerships with quality physician groups, and PCCMG is an excellent example of that,” said Mike Snow, president and CEO of TeamHealth. “PCCMG’s clinicians and administrative leaders are committed to providing exceptional service to their hospital partners and delivering the highest quality care for patients and their families. TeamHealth is honored to be working with such an outstanding organization.”

Read More…

By |October 13, 2014|News & Events|Comments Off on TeamHealth Expands California Presence; Acquires Operations of Primary Critical Care Medical Group

What Makes an Excellent Tele-Triage Nurse?

by Michelle Holztrager, RN

Tele-triage nursing has become a highly skilled and specialized field of nursing. At TeamHealth Medical Call Center we believe it is an art. We have found that the most successful tele-triage nurses excel in four areas: process skills; clinical knowledge; critical thinking; and listening skills.

Process skills consist of typing and keyboard / computer navigation skills. We utilize a number of tests to evaluate software comprehension, keyboard dexterity, typing speed and multitasking. Our nurses must access a number of different programs and client EMRs to meet client specifications and drive patient centered care. It is important that nurses are not defocused from patient interactions by difficulty managing technology.

The need for clinical knowledge is obvious and excellent phone assessment skills are paramount. Generally speaking, nurses with broad experience, in particular ER nurses, are a good fit for telephone triage. Ambulatory Care nurses usually have the benefit of previous in-patient experience coupled with phone assessments from their practice experience. For call center specialties and subspecialties, we seek nurses with the specific experience of the specialty area. TeamHealth Medical Call Center also provides intensive training on phone assessments, guideline selection, and the clinical phone triage process.

Adept critical thinking is another crucial attribute of a tele-triage nurse. A telephone nurse needs to be able to follow the triage process to do well. Deviating from the process and / or the guidelines will often result in poor decisions or the nurse going down the wrong path. A nurse with strong critical thinking skills can take in extra information and sort out the important nuggets without allowing the extraneous information to influence the call. Callers are usually subjective in their words and the tele-triage nurse must be able to separate the objective from the subjective and apply the triage process to the presenting facts.

Lastly, successful telephone triage requires excellent listening skills. There are no physical cues as to the patient’s disposition, thus the nurse is dependent on truly hearing and clarifying what the caller says. Listening skills, and hearing the important details, are vital to the process. At TeamHealth Medical Call Center, we train on listening skills and verbal indicators throughout our training program.

I like to say that the art of telephone triage is the science of nursing with specially trained listening skills. Nurses are used to physically multitasking, but tele-triage is very focused mental multitasking. Nurses who are proficient in these four areas will almost always shine in the field of telephone triage.


Michelle Holtztrager, TeamHealth Medical Call Center Leadership, Director of Education and Staff Development

Michelle Holtztrager, RN

Michelle Hoztrager, RN, is the Director of Education and Staff Development for TeamHealth Medical Call Center. She has twenty-five years of senior management experience in healthcare.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of Answerstat Magazine on page 21.

By |October 2, 2014|Blog, Telephone Triage|Comments Off on What Makes an Excellent Tele-Triage Nurse?