HealthLink: Free nurse advice line

September 16, 2019
A photo of a nurse making a phone call to a patient
UCHealth’s HealthLink, a free nurse advice help line, provides medical advice to patients across Colorado. Photo: Getty Images.

The woman who called for help to HealthLink, a free nurse advice line, was struggling emotionally and saying she wanted to “end it all.’’

Listening on the other end was a nurse who answers phone calls for HealthLink, a free UCHealth triage call center based at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. The nurse kept the new mother, who was suffering from post-partum depression after the delivery of her baby five months earlier, on the telephone and the nurse called 911 and kept talking to the woman until paramedics arrived.

Through the HealthLink telephone line – 719.444.CARE – UCHealth helps more than 10,000 people each year stay connected to medical experts. During more than 25,000 inbound calls received at HealthLink last year, many were emergency triage calls that resulted in hundreds of people being referred to an emergency department. HealthLink helped many patients find a doctor and, in some cases, directed patients or their caregivers to call 911 ASAP.

In one case, a woman called and said she had fallen and hit her head. The HealthLink nurse recognized that the caller’s speech was slurred and asked a family member to call 911. A few days later, the HealthLink nurse learned that her hunch was, unfortunately, correct. The woman had suffered a stroke but since she sought immediate care, she made a full recovery.

Remember these 10 digits

It would be hard to find 10 digits that save more lives and help more people in Colorado than HealthLink’s 719.444.CARE. Nurses answer calls at HealthLink from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Sometimes, the nurses help connect callers to behavioral health, physical therapy, wellness, social services and other services. Recent examples include:

  • A patient who had been in the Emergency Department the night before for an exacerbation with multiple sclerosis. The patient needed two more doses of IV Solumedrol. Since the patient felt poorly due to the MS exacerbation, the HealthLink nurse helped get the Solumedrol delivered to an outpatient infusion clinic so the patient would not have to return to the ED.
  • A nurse was on the phone with a caller who had fainted earlier that day and was calling because she “doesn’t feel right and feels very shaky.” The caller explained that she has a history of seizures. Unfortunately, during the triage assessment the caller went unresponsive and the HealthLink nurse heard her fall. Luckily, the caller’s young daughter was standing near her when this happened and picked up the phone. The HealthLink nurse kept the young daughter calm and gave her some basic instructions on how to keep her mom safe while she conferenced in 911. The nurse remained on the line with the daughter until the paramedics were on their way and the 911 dispatcher took over.

HealthLink nurses follow up with emergency triage callers the next day or sooner – within two hours in the case of emergency department referrals. They also reach out to patients discharged from Memorial Hospital who have a high risk of readmission, making sure they’re getting their prescriptions filled, that they’re following discharge instructions, and that they’ve set up their follow-up appointments. All told, it added up to more than 18,000 outbound calls in 2018.

HealthLink is a community asset, a benefit for residents in southern Colorado and throughout the state.