Guidelines for Telephone Triage

Carolyn Buppert, JD, CRNP


Dermatology Nursing. 2009;21(1):40-41. 

In This Article

Unique Dermatology Considerations

Telephone triage in the dermatology practice is unlike telephone triage in other specialties, in several ways. First, there are few dermatologic emergencies, so the threshold question will not usually be whether or not the patient should go to the emergency room. Instead, given the shortage of dermatologists, the first question the call-taker must address is whether the patient must be worked into an already crowded schedule or whether he can wait 6 to 8 weeks for an appointment. Second, given the necessity of visualization for dermatologic diagnosis, the dermatology call-taker is at an obvious disadvantage. If a dermatologist or dermatologist’s staff is speaking with another clinician, there may be some hope of getting a useful description of a lesion by telephone. However, if the dermatologist or staff member is speaking directly with a patient, the clinician cannot expect to get an accurate description of a lesion. Telephone triage in dermatology is, in some ways, more risky than it is in other specialties, where a patient’s description of symptoms may be elicited easily.

Telephone triage in dermatology is no different from other specialties in that there is no payment available for the service, unless both clinician and patient meet the criteria for telemedicine.

So, the best advice I can give regarding telephone triage for the dermatology practitioner is: Don’t do it. Have patients come to the office for an evaluation.