Hospital Healthline reopens, staffed by nurses 24 hours

They field 25 calls since resumption on Thursday

July 07, 1999|By La Quinta D. Dixon | La Quinta D. Dixon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After a six-month hiatus, North Arundel Hospital's 24-hour Healthline reopened Thursday and had received 25 calls.

Twenty-five registered nurses from Timonium-based Futurehealth, a health-care risk-management organization that bid for the job, are staffing the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service.

The Healthline is like a "second mom," said Kevin Murnane, public relations director for the hospital. Some mothers are calling hot-line nurses for advice, he said.

"Having a nurse at the other end of the phone is very reassuring to a parent," he said.

Before the line was shut down in November, it offered physician referrals, advice and an answering service for doctors out of the office.

The answering service has been eliminated, Murnane said. It cost about $80,000 a year, out of a total annual budget for the referral line of $300,000. It also was occupying nurses' time that could have could have been spent with patients, he said.

Still, the registered nurses expect to be answering about 3,000 calls a month, Murnane said. They have a library of 54 medical lectures on tape.

During the six-month hiatus, clerks compiled a database of about 500 physicians, Murnane said. Starting July 12, callers will be able to find a doctor based on location, board certification, education, hours of operation, gender and insurance coverage.

"We provide voluminous information, and it's much more thorough than before," Murnane said.

About 40 percent of the calls are for referrals, he said.

"My department will help in giving [callers] the most up-to-date information on physicians, so that when they change [locations], we will have the correct information," said Becky Paesch, director of provider contracting and network development.

Callers will receive background information over the telephone and in a follow-up letter 24 hours after the call, Paesch said.

To ensure that people seek medical attention, the Healthline will follow up all urgent calls 24 hours after the initial call comes in, Paesch said.

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