Contributor: David Peña Otero, RN; MsC; PhD; Doctor of Nursing Practice, Sub-Directorate Care Advisor, Cantabrian Health Service
At the start of the first wave of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 in Spain, the health emergency phone lines in the region of Cantabria on the north coast of Spain faced a lot of congestion. In response, the Cantabrian Health Service set up a new hotline - Health Cantabria Responds - on 13 March 2020.
The aim of the new telehealth system, led by Nursing of the Subdirectorate of Care of the Cantabrian Health Service with multidisciplinary care (medicine, nursing and physiotherapy), was to classify cases compatible with symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and refer them to the health system as a priority, urgent and emergent. In addition to this triage process, Health Cantabria Responds provides interventions specific to the caller’s needs, such as health education regarding COVID-19, detection and support for vulnerable people, and connection with other organisations and entities involved in the management process and control of the pandemic (public health, education, etc.) and monitors the cases over time.
Currently, Health Cantabria Responds works tirelessly to continuously improve its services and provide callers with the answers and assistance they need. The hotline has added to its portfolio of services the assessment and follow-up of suspected cases and close contacts; creation of a health card to follow up users who are outside the health system; requests for diagnostic tests for active infection; health promotion with special attention to the reinforcement of anti-smoking measures, confinement of those at risk; as well as notifying the Operational Epidemiological Surveillance Team and the Coordination Unit of the General Directorate of Public Health.
Between 14 March and 21 June 2020, an average of five health professionals provided 1,225 hours of service to respond to 13,879 calls (out of a population of 581,078 inhabitants). As a result of these calls, 9,105 interventions were made, leading to a decrease in visits to emergency care centres, which may otherwise have been overwhelmed.
Nurses actively participated, coordinating services and providing leadership in the development of the hotline, including continuous improvement, generating procedures, and carrying out training and research to evaluate the service. The results achieved demonstrate the importance of the service supporting the public and provided them with the answers they need.
The hotline is part of an e-health project which also includes a computer programme to improve health literacy, integration of digital medical records and continuous research to improve processes. The success of the hotline means that the Cantabrian Health Service is looking towards future scenarios to provide assistance, advice and support of people in health matters.