Many Americans either without a doctor or insurance utilize emergency rooms for routine care. That's common knowledge even outside of the hospital.
What isn't as common, however, is when the hospital moves pro-actively to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to the ER. We were not surprised to discover Hays Medical Center recently launched an after-hours nurse hotline to assist in this area.
As was reported in The Hays Daily News last week, the hotline is available to patients and community members seeking medical advice -- free of charge.
"We wanted to increase access to health care," said Terry Siek, chief nursing officer at HaysMed.
Siek noted there is at least 20 percent of this area's population who don't have an established health-care provider. And since obtaining routine care at the emergency room is one of the most expensive ways to enter the health care system, such a hotline should help reduce costs for patients and medical facilities alike.
Specially trained registered nurses, armed with approved protocols for adult and pediatric care, deal with whatever the caller needs.
"Some patients just want medical advice," said Carol Groen, HaysMed manager for special projects. "They might want information on flu or fever control or STDs, just all kinds of different reasons people call for information."
The hotline makes sense. The hospital was used to getting similar calls in the past, but without trained medical personnel on the phone, it wasn't possible to give advice. The liability issues were too great.
All that is changed with 1-855-HaysMed. The nurse hotline is open from 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 24 hours on weekends and holidays. Individuals calling will get their questions answered, be connected to their doctor if need be, or be advised to go to the ER.
While geared toward those without established providers, the hotline can be used by anybody.
The nurse hotline is a progressive idea, and one that should make at least a small dent in the high costs of health care. We applaud HaysMed for providing the service to area residents.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry