Medical Self-Triage: How to Help Patients Help Themselves

Discover how symptom-checkers help deliver faster, safer, and more cost-effective care for patients.

June 16, 2021
10 min read
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The COVID-19 pandemic proved that better technology can help healthcare providers adapt more quickly. During its height, there was an overwhelming 154% increase in telehealth visits which provided a lifeline for patients seeking safer and more convenient care in their homes.  

In a digital-first world, more people are looking for medical help via virtual means before they make contact with a healthcare professional. By acting as a pre-screener, medical triage tools − sometimes known as symptom-checkers − help determine when in-person care is needed and when managing and treating the symptoms at home should suffice. Not only does this reduce long waiting times, but it helps to minimize the impact a patient surge has on medical facilities.

By launching your own medical triage tool, you can provide patients and customers with a greater sense of control of their health and well-being. It also limits the reliance on search engines which can return confusing information from a diverse and unreliable range of sources. Moreover, information updates take effect immediately, without the need for technical teams, so you can deliver faster, better, and more cost-effective care across the board. 

How do medical triage tools work? 

A medical triage tool follows a simple decision tree structure, similar to a flowchart, which is based on criteria set by the tool’s owner. Patients respond to a series of questions, for example, “do you have the following symptoms?”, “please check all the statements that apply to you” or “are you so ill you've stopped doing your usual daily activities?”. Based on their responses, the triage tool is able to offer preliminary diagnosis information, or signpost the patient to the appropriate medical facility for further evaluation. 

The advantages of a medical triage tool

These tools imitate the clinical protocols followed by healthcare providers and are used in a variety of clinical settings to make the best use of often limited resources. Whether patients access medical self-diagnosis tools at home or in the waiting room, it relieves some of the pressure for doctors and nurses as they can gather patient information quickly and use their time in the consultation room more effectively. 

Importantly, patients get access to the right information in real time. This can help those who may be putting off contacting a medical professional because they have a false sense of security that their symptoms are harmless. Equally, it will alleviate any feelings of stress, anxiety, or worry brought on by the illness. For healthcare institutions, it can save time and money by reducing the reliance on call centers and cutting down the number of unnecessary emergency visits. 

Medical checkers are not only appropriate for self-help, however, and can be used in a fast-changing call center environment to support agents. By using a medical triage tool, agents take less time to find the right information, reducing call wait times and increasing patient or customer satisfaction. For example, implementing decision tree software cut CARTI’s call wait times by 18 minutes. Call waiting times used to be as high as 20 minutes as agents hunted for the right answers to questions ranging from the clinical, like how to prepare for an operation, to the administrative, like transferring medical records. By using software effectively, agents were able to speed up their response time, averaging just two minutes for each call. It also made it easier for agents to handle any difficult or complex interactions that they encountered during the call. 

How can I implement a medical triage tool?

With Zingtree’s powerful decision tree software, you can help guide patients to the best care, control the information they receive, and reduce the pressure on healthcare staff and medical facilities. Zingtree offers pre-formatted templates and examples, such as this COVID-19 medical triage tool, that can be put live in minutes. Zingtree requires no coding, no expert hiring, and allows you to make updates whenever needed. Our medical diagnosis tools can live on any webpage and be accessed via desktop or mobile. 

Plus, with Zingtree’s detailed analysis and reporting tools, you can observe how your patients interact with the technology, and optimize your triage tool to both fulfill their needs, and run your organization more efficiently.   

Would you like to learn more about creating a Zingtree medical triage tool? Reach out to our team to request a free demo today.