Ready to help: teleNurse has a proven track record in giving medical advice over the phone. *Creative Commons photo
Ready to help: teleNurse has a proven track record in giving medical advice over the phone. *Creative Commons photo
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WEDNESDAY, JAN. 23: There was a rise in use of emergency rooms in 2010-11 in spite of there being fewer people in Bermuda.

That has led to a rise in healthcare costs.

Argus is hoping to help people not use the emergency room as a first option in minor situations.

The company has launched a service called teleNurse; a free medical advice hotline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from Bermuda. The service is available to Argus Health customers toll-free by calling +1 855 257 8908.

There were 38,881 visits to King Edward Memorial VII’s emergency room and the Lamb Foggo clinic in 2010-11, which are the latest statistics released by the hospital.

Michelle Brock Jackson, executive vice president, Group Insurance, the Argus Group, told the Bermuda Sun: “Good medicine and quality medicine is cost saving medicine. We often use the emergency room as the first line of care. It has been documented that emergency room visits has gone up. This gives us a way for consumer to manage their health proactively.

“People can call the hotline. With the information people can take care of themselves and they don’t have to go to the emergency room. Over time that really does costs savings, not just for Argus, but throughout the healthcare system.

“We don’t often have the right information at a time when we don’t have easy access to our physicians like on the weekend or the evening. It’s really helpful to have a hotline that’s available 24/7 that’s toll free from Bermuda.

Ms Brock Jackson said Argus has been mulling over the idea of having this service available for the past several years

“But we wanted a system where Argus was not dispensing the medical advice so we wanted a partner overseas that has this working and has a proven track record in using telemedicine.”

Enquiries to teleNurse will be answered by a registered nurse at FONEMED (www.fonemed.com). In non-urgent cases, callers will have the option to be transferred to the “Health Information Library,” where they can listen to recorded materials on a wealth of health-related topics.

The average emergency room and clinic visit in Bermuda costs $550 and $382 respectively. teleNurse also serves to channel consumers straight to appropriate health care providers and support health care providers in managing chronic conditions.

According to research conducted by Health Services Research and Development,  50 per cent of emergency department visits in the US are non-urgent and could therefore be treated in a lower cost setting.

If Bermuda was able to cut its emergency room and clinic visits by 50 per cent, even using the lower $382 figure, the island could save $7.4 million.

Ms Brock Jackson said they would monitor to see how well it is used.

“We won’t know the effect of it until we measure it over time.”

Ms Brock Jackson said: “We at Argus Health are constantly looking for ways to make life a little easier for our clients and the launch of teleNurse is testimony to this. I’m sure most of us have experienced long waits at the emergency room for what turns out to be a non-urgent condition. With teleNurse, clients can now speak to a medical practitioner from the comfort of their armchair. The service also benefits employers by eliminating the need to find cover for staff attending unnecessary medical appointments.”