Excellence In Community Service Award 2021 Award Winner



Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston was awarded THA’s Excellence in Community Service Award for their Nurse Health Line, a free telephone triage service available to anyone living in Texas.

According to an emergency department use study published in June 2013 by the University of Texas School of Public Health, more than 46% of all patients treated and released from emergency rooms in Houston were treated for primary care-related illnesses or injuries that could have been treated in a physician’s office or clinic. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency rooms in southeast Texas were often at capacity and facilities struggled to meet the needs of patients in a timely manner.

Members of the Nurse Health Line team in 2019: Juan Delgado; Carol Matsumoto, RN; Arechia Gaines, RN; Chelsea Vazquez, RN; Jessica Bailey, RN; and Danielle Thompson, RN.

Based on the findings of the UT School of Public Health study and informed by the consistent trend seen across hospitals in Houston, Memorial Hermann Health System established its free, 24/7 Nurse Health Line in 2014. The Nurse Health Line was designed with the purpose of improving community access to care and ensuring more efficient use of the emergency rooms in Harris and the surrounding counties.

Those who are experiencing a health concern can dial the Nurse Health Line for assistance in Spanish or English to determine the right kind of care to pursue. The Nurse Health Line is staffed by trained nurses 24/7 to help members of the Greater Houston community query immediate health concerns, inquire about a condition or medication, or get immediate answers to follow-up questions from a recent clinic or hospital visit.

In addition, a team of community health workers associated with the Nurse Health Line help callers who do not already have an established primary medical home locate one, further helping people find the resources they need to manage their health, now and in the future.

Receiving more than 169,710 calls during Memorial Hermann’s 2021 fiscal year (July 2020-June 2021), the Nurse Health Line has helped to ensure that ambulances and emergency rooms are available for crises, and that non-critical health care is delivered in an appropriate setting.

The cost avoidance for Houston area emergency rooms was more than $4.7 million in FY2021, using the assumption of $500 per ER visit. While 51% of callers indicated that they would have gone to the ER had they not called the Health Line, only 25% of all callers were ultimately sent to the ER based on their condition.

In addition, 98% of Nurse Health Line users reported the service as good or excellent, demonstrating that it provides helpful information, advice and education to callers. Callers are not only given peace of mind for their medical concern, but are also provided a convenient option to receive proper guidance for optimal health outcomes.