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P021 - Leveraging a 24-Hour Nurse Call Center to Maintain Healthcare Access in Chaotic Times

‐ Apr 22, 2022 2:00pm

In 2020, the COVID pandemic rapidly spread throughout the globe. News of its spread and impact on communities dominated television and media outlets as healthcare facilities were overwhelmed with an increasing census of severely ill COVID patients. A mid-sized county hospital in West Texas experienced its first case on March 18, 2020. Quickly the organization’s 24-hour nurse call center became a source of communication for the community as people sought answers from their local healthcare experts.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the call center was marketed as the central location for COVID information, COVID testing scheduling, and symptom triage. This reduced the burden of inappropriate visits to the emergency department and gave the community one number to call for all their COVID concerns. It also provided a referral source for our primary clinics and other providers within the health system. Patients were referred to the call center for all their COVID screening and testing needs before their appointments and scheduled procedures. Due to increased call volumes, there was a need for additional staff. When surgeries and procedures were canceled in outpatient locations, many nurses working in these areas were trained to take calls to assist in the call center. This helped prevent furloughs of nursing staff within the hospital.

In hopes to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID and now its many variants, healthcare facilities are working to help get community members vaccinated. For the organization, the effort to open a mass vaccination site required work from many different areas within the health system. The 24-hour nurse call center became an integral part of this process. When the organization was designated as a vaccination hub for Texas, the call center was asked to assist with mass vaccination appointment registration and scheduling. By utilizing the 24-hour nurse call center, the organization was able to successfully manage over 1000 additional calls per day to help schedule patients for COVID vaccinations. In total, over 70,000 people were vaccinated at the vaccination site during the 4 months it was open. Individuals traveled from all over the state of Texas and even out of the country to our site to receive COVID vaccinations. The steps involved in leveraging the flexibility of a 24-hour nurse call center to adapting healthcare access will be discussed along with lessons learned, challenges experienced, and successful outcomes achieved.


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