Not sure if you need to go to the ER? Call the YRMC CareLine
Is your baby running a fever? Should you take her to the emergency room?
Maybe your toddler has a rash and you're wondering whether you should you take him to the doctor.
Your heart is racing. Should you rush to the hospital or wait to see if it passes?
Before heading to the ER, Yuma Regional Medical Center has a free service that might save you money and visit to the hospital. The hospital's CareLine -- 336-CARE (2273) -- is a toll-free number manned by nurses ready to answer health questions in English or Spanish and guide callers to appropriate care.
YRMC started the program more than 10 years ago to address the large number of people going to the emergency room that could have been seen in a lower level of care, either a primary care physician, urgent care center or even home care.
The hospital contracts with a service which employs nurses trained in telephone triage, usually nurses who have worked in the emergency room or intensive care unit.
“They have the skill set of being able to guide people to appropriate care. They don't diagnose but guide them to proper care: ‘This is what you should do next …,'” explained Machele Headington, vice president of marketing and communications for YRMC.
Sometimes a caller can take care of the problem at home.
One of the most common questions is: Should I go to the doctor or not?
About 90 percent of callers are concerned with symptoms they or a loved one are experiencing and they want to know what, and if, they should do something about it.
Eighty percent of callers had planned to go to the emergency room before calling CareLine. Of those, 75 percent were guided to a more appropriate level of care, other than the emergency room.
However, Headington noted, the nurses prefer to err on the side of caution when necessary.
“They're very conservative. Say you cut your finger open and it's bleeding a lot. Or you feel dizzy and your heart is racing. They are more likely to err on a higher level of care,” such as a visit to the ER, she said.
A large percentage of calls involve children, with fever, stomach ache and digestion some of the more common concerns. And calls always spike during flu season.
“Some times you just need reassurance. Do I need to go to the doctor?” Headington noted.
Nurses will answer questions and provide education as well.
“For example, a person goes to the doctor and she is told that she is borderline diabetic. When she gets home, she might want to know what that means,” Headington said.
The patient can get more information by calling the CareLine.
But a person doesn't have to be sick to take advantage of the service. CareLine has a large audio library available to those who simply want more information on a health-related topic.
“If someone is looking to change their diet or they want to know what a hairline fracture or they want to learn more about pink eye, they can just call,” Headington said.
The caller can explain what they are seeking and the operator will suggest an audio library topic.
The YRMC CareLine receives at least 1,200 calls a month, with a higher number in the winter.
Until about two years ago, the CareLine received from 900 to 1,000 calls a month, but the number has recently jumped to about 1,200 to 1,300 monthly calls.
The CareLine gets a lot of repeat callers because once a person discovers the resource, they tend to use it again and again.
Headington wouldn't mind seeing the monthly numbers jump even more. “It's a free resource. We encourage people to use the resource.”
She recommends having the phone number handy, maybe on the refrigerator and cell phone contacts list.
Nurses are standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You know how things seem to happen after hours or on weekends,” Headington quipped.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.