Implications for a Web-Based Triage System in a College Health Setting

Wednesday, 14 July 2010: 11:20 AM

Leslee A. D'Amato-Kubiet, MSN, ARNP
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Daytona Beach, FL
Mary Lou Sole, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN, FCCM
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Olando, FL
Michael Deichen, MD, ABFP
Student Health Services, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to categorize chief symptoms evaluated by a web-based triage system in University/College settings.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to list possible uses for web-triage in community or global health systems.

Purpose: Internet-based applications for self-care have been established as efficient and secure self-assessment tools that enable individuals to control their own care and retrieve health information with minimal effort.   The primary purpose of this research study was to analyze aggregate data of college students that used a web-based triage system to determine treatment options for health-related symptoms.  A secondary purpose was to identify the implications of a web-based triage system for meeting future health service needs and demands of college students.
Methods: A descriptive comparative approach was used to evaluate aggregate data from a convenience sample of students that accessed a web-based triage system over a 4 year period.  The link to the website was from the homepage of the college health service.  De-identified data included gender, age, body system complaint, duration of symptoms, and recommended follow-up.  Data were analyzed using frequencies and chi-square.
Results: During the time period, the system recorded 4574 encounters.  More women accessed the system (71.7%) than men (28.2%).  The majority of students (74.1%) were 18 to 22 years of age.  Web-triage access was greater during the weekdays than on weekends, with 24-hour peak usage when the health center was closed (71.5%).  The most common chief complaints related to eye, ear, nose, throat (19.2%); musculoskeletal (15.5%); and female reproductive systems (14.5%). Recommendations included immediate care (28.2%), 12-24 hours (26.6%), 2-3 days (13.6%), 1-2 weeks (8.4%), and self care (23.3%). 
Conclusion: The web-triage system is a valuable tool for meeting the needs of college students as a healthcare information resource, especially when access to healthcare services is limited. Self care options recommended by the system for frequently occurring symptoms offer students flexibility and value-based alternatives for care.  Implications for community-wide and global demand are wide-ranging as healthcare consumers search for greater amounts of information from internet-based sources.