Why Payers Should Add a Digital Nurse Hotline Experience for their Members

Dr. Igor Shumskiy

I’ve had a sore throat for a few days and I thought, what the hell, why don’t I use my insurance’s 24-hour nurse hotline. Maybe they can offer guidance on whether I need to seek in-person care and where this care might actually be covered. Out-of-pocket costs? 😣 No thanks! 🤣

Most patients have already done a thorough Dr. Google search before this call would ever take place. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the data. This means they’ve scared themselves into thinking they have something severe and scary. Put yourself into your members’ shoes…you’re sick, your PCP might be booked for days (if you took the trouble to call and check), and now Dr. Google says you have cancer. 😳😳😳 Ok, cue the nurse hotline call. Here are the steps I had to take to get a nurse on the phone:

  1. I went to my health insurance company’s website.
  2. I attempted to log-in and failed. 🤬🤬🤬
  3. I created a brand new login and password, verified it with my e-mail, and logged in again. 
  4. I maneuvered to the home page and found the 24/7 nurse hotline number.
  5. After a few prompts and menus, I re-entered my member ID. 

Finally, a real live nurse. All this probably took 10 minutes, which, one might argue, isn’t terrible. The nurse was pleasant and helpful, suggested I see my primary care provider in the next few days. When I explained it’s almost impossible to be seen so quickly, he suggested a few nearby urgent care locations and gave me the phone number to the nearest one.

As good as healthcare could be, right? Wrong. 

Accessing Healthcare— the Current Process is Lacking

First, I’m a millennial and reasonably tech-savvy. Additionally, I have high health literacy (at least I’d like to think so as an MD 🤷🏾‍♂️). Many of your high-risk, high-utilizing members are likely to have significant trouble figuring out the steps above quickly given the psychological stress associated with their condition(s). They need more engaging, easy-to-use communication tools. When trying to combat the likes of WebMD, a webpage that is incredibly easy to read and access (it’s the first non-paid link on a google search of sore throat), you need something just as powerful. With a digital nurse hotline option, your patients could be text-message-chatting with a live nurse directly on your homepage within a minute (just think about the “chat now” feature on any other industry’s webpage). 

Second, why rely on the nurse to look up the nearest urgent care and give me the phone number to call? This is inefficient for the nurse and painful for your members. Unfortunately, in our rushed society phone calls have become an antiquated medium when it comes to booking an appointment (and all things really). Last thing you want is your member having issues connecting via a call (or foregoing it altogether) and instead just heading to the nearest ER they know well. 

With a few clicks through WebMD’s page on sore throat I’m already seeing ads everywhere that direct me to the advertiser’s care options. Can you compete with that? Better hope those providers are in-network. By digitizing your nurse hotline experience the system can easily offer patients nearby urgent care options that are in-network and provide direct links to scheduling pages. 

Third, photos! The nurse I spoke with asked me to look in the back of my mouth and check for white or yellow spots. Sure, I can do that. But, again, I’m quite health literate. Instead, why not tell the member to take a photo of the concern at hand and send it along for the nurse to see. What? You can’t do that via phone triage? Well, you can via digital text chat. 

Digital Nurse Hotlines— a Better Alternative

Nurse-1-1, a HIPAA-compliant text chat experience, was founded to help solve these problems and create the following experience.  

Just imagine, your member Stacy goes to your homepage with fever and sore throat. Within seconds, Stacy is chatting with a nurse on the homepage digital text chat option. She is told that urgent care is a great option based on her symptoms, especially if she can’t get in to see her PCP within the next few days. A link is provided to the nearest urgent care options in her area that are in-network. She chooses the one she feels is best and is instantly taken to that urgent care’s booking page. Stacy now has an urgent care appointment in a few hours and her concern is no longer a concern, just a minor illness. Since everything is digital, she can even text chat quickly with a non-clinical representative about her out-of-pocket costs or copays associated with this urgent care visit. 

Now we are talking! Hey WebMD, eat your heart out. 😂😂😂Don’t your members, especially the high-risk ones, deserve better? Learn more about how Nurse-1-1 can help you digitize your 24-hour nurse hotline quickly, easily, and to your nurses’ delight! Oh, did I mention our system is HIPAA compliant! 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽