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IHC automating RN hotline program

Published: Monday, Nov. 16 1998 12:00 a.m. MST

Callers used to dialing the IHC RN (formerly Ask a Nurse) line with medical questions will soon find themselves dealing with an automated system.

But that's not bad news for those callers, said Dr. Gregory Schwitzer, Intermountain Health Care vice president of clinical support services."We looked at the call types and tried to address the most efficient ways to take care of the public," said Schwitzer of the decision to end the service, which allowed callers to talk directly to registered nurses about their medical concerns. "Many of the calls were the information type that can be addressed by an automated help line."

The automated line, he said, will be available by Dec. 15 and will have a broad range of topics from the more general, like "fever," to the specific: "Topics like burned hands while canning with jalapeno peppers," Schwitzer laughed. "They're pretty detailed."

In all, 430 topics are available. And each message has a description of the illness, typical signs and symptoms, self-care options and prevention, the normal course of the illness, warning signs and complications and when to contact a physician.

The topic index will be available on the Internet at (www.ihc.org), and thousands of copies will also be distributed throughout the community, said Daron Cowley, spokesman for IHC. Even without the index, people should be able to work their way to the correct topic within a couple of minutes.

The 40 nurses who are being displaced by the automated system will receive generous severance packages, Cowley said. And because "we have more openings than we have applicants" for nursing positions with IHC facilities, he said those nurses who choose to stay with the company will be able to transfer without losing any benefits.

"It's our intention to identify openings that would be available to these nurses," said Schwitzer, adding that they've identified about 150 openings.

IHC RN has several other programs that will not be affected. For example, staff members will continue to help patients with appointments, immunization reminders and routine health screening reminders.

And callers will continue to call emergency rooms and clinics if they have real questions, the two men agreed. They've traditionally done that, even with the call-in program available.

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