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Heroes For Better

COVID-19 Hotline Team Works Together From Afar

Teamwork Necessary for Triage Hotline

Throughout the pandemic, you’ve probably heard the phrase “rapidly evolving situation” many times. Healthcare providers have had to quickly adapt as understanding of COVID-19 has grown. To help patients and care teams keep up with the constant updates in prevention, treatment and testing guidelines, Northwestern Medicine established its COVID-19 Hotline. Hotline operators provide expedient general information to patients and providers alike, and perform triage for COVID-19 testing.

Launched in early March at the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 Hotline is staffed 13 hours a day (7 am — 8 pm), seven days a week. In roughly the first eight weeks, almost 14,000 patients were triaged for COVID-19 testing via the hotline. In the first 10 weeks, the hotline had received almost 50,000 calls.

Separate Locations, One Purpose

The COVID-19 Hotline nurse triage team is made up of 45 nurses and advanced practice providers from across Northwestern Medicine, including Immediate Care Centers, ambulatory clinics and procedural areas. They all work in different locations — many from home — but stay connected online where they have access to the same up-to-date resources to keep patients and staff informed as national, state and health system protocols continue to change. A manager is always available via chat to answer any questions the team may have as they assist callers.

The team uses compassionate care strategies to talk to patients about their symptoms and determine if patients qualify for COVID-19 testing, should come to the hospital for further care, or can manage symptoms at home. Patients who do not seek on-site care can call the hotline at any time to discuss their status with a Northwestern Medicine nurse or advanced practice provider. If patients test positive for COVID-19, they are automatically enrolled in a COVID-19 Patient Monitoring Program so that providers can follow up with them.

“It has been so exciting to see people from different backgrounds come together and work as a team to serve our patients,” says Northwestern Medicine Access Director Elizabeth Brewster. “The team has shown incredible adaptability as COVID-19 testing criteria and options for testing continually evolve.”

Brewster and Kathryn Doyle, MSN, RN, director, ambulatory care coordination, worked together to establish and oversee the COVID-19 Hotline. While they both put in hard work and long hours to launch it, the pair is quick to recognize their team of triage nurses for their flexibility and dedication to putting patients first.

“This team is providing clinical assessment, education, compassion and reassurance every day to patients, employees and providers related to COVID-19 symptoms,” says Doyle. “They are consistently checking in on patients later, even though it’s not required. They help each other daily with questions and process despite never meeting each other.”

Learn more about what Northwestern Medicine is doing to protect patients and providers during the pandemic. To access the COVID-19 Hotline, call 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843).