Why don’t Nurse-1-1 nurses diagnose, prescribe, or even give medical advice?

This is probably the #1 question we get when we talk to others in the healthcare industry about Nurse-1-1. Most of our nurses are actually Nurse Practitioners, and all have a minimum of 5 years of experience in emergency care, urgent care, primary care, or triage. We have NPs who are licensed in all 50 states. So why don’t we fully utilize this capability to offer diagnosis, prescriptions, or even become a nurse advice line?  

Our goal is to provide patients with information to make an informed decision about where they should turn for care. We don’t provide care. We leave this to their provider or a local clinic who can. Healthcare should be local, and the industry must play a role in creating a strong patient-provider relationship. Let’s now dive into why our digital health company is still holding on to this premise. It comes down to two reasons: 

1) This is what most patients want. 

2) It’s been proven this is what most patients need.

Before we started Nurse-1-1 we spent two years researching the market and truly understanding why patients turn to a Google search for their health information (rather than asking their providers). 7% of all search traffic is from people searching for health information. We needed to understand what it was they were searching for and what alternatives they would turn to instead of content plays like WebMD.  A few things stood out in our research:

  1. There are 3x more searches that include the keyword “nurse” in a health related search query than “doctor”
  2. 5x more patients would sign up for our “coming soon” digital service when we said it offered “information,” instead of offering “prescriptions” or “diagnosis.” 

Decision making is where patients start their journey

Before patients trust any provider and want to be treated, they first gather up enough information for themselves. WebMD has never prescribed a single drug, yet millions of people turn to it every day. Patients want information first because decision making is where they start their journeys. “I wanted to check before I went to the local emergency room” was a common response when we interviewed patients. Other responses from patients were along the lines of, “I already have a doctor, I just needed to ask a nurse if I should call my doctor.” and “I’d rather go to a local urgent care clinic than use a video visit service for a prescription.” Never once did patients say they were looking for a diagnosis or a prescription. Never.

The start of a patient’s journey is also where they can be most influenced. 

What we discovered at Nurse-1-1 during our research is just how influential nurses can be if they simply make themselves available to patients to provide this information. The web is full of misinformation and scary healthcare stories that can send any patient into a full blown panic. Intervening with a live nurse during this stage is critical to ensure patients make the best decision about where to turn to for care. Many times, these are longer stories that require a deep understanding of the patient. Offering a one time video visit consultation won’t help the patient. Healthcare is a constantly evolving journey for patients, which leads me to my last point.

Local care, and why PCPs still matter. 

The PCP is not dead, but it needs to meet patients where they are in today’s world. It doesn’t take a trained Nurse Practitioner on Nurse-1-1 long before they know where the patient should turn to for care. However, when asked, over half of the patients we see indicate to our nurses that they do not have a primary care provider. Urgent Care, retail pharmacy, and primary care offices play an important role in our handoffs. Telling a patient they should talk to a provider isn’t enough. We learned that there are two more things we must do:  

1) provide local options for patients to turn to

2) follow up over the coming days to make sure we keep the patient engaged and aware of the best care options for them (rather than just turning to the ER as the easiest, most familiar option) 

Our nurses connect patients to the best site of care for them— local urgent care, primary care, and even the ER if necessary. The difference between an ER, an urgent care clinic, or a PCP is confusing to most. Our nurses help explain these options. Patients can take up to a week to decide where to be seen, so we make sure to follow up in the days after a chat with a nurse. Making sure the patient remembers and sees which local providers they can turn to for care is critical. WebMD is just a click away. We aim to make sure that local care, urgent care, and PCPs are just as accessible for patients. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Nurse-1-1’s network of nurses can make your primary care accessible to more patients, request a demo below.