Wednesday, February 25, 2015

CDC to recommend New Mexico's nurse call center as a national model for free health services

A free health service in New Mexico—a state with a large rural population—has become so successful in assisting uninsured and low-income residents, while also saving the state millions of dollars, that in April the Centers for Disease Control is expected to recommend the program as a national model for other states to emulate, Christine Vestal reports for Stateline. (NurseAdvice New Mexico photo)

"New Mexico is the only state with a 24/7 registered nurse call center that is free to all residents, whether insured or not," Vestal writes. "In operation since 2006, it has kept tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of emergency rooms and saved the state more than $68 million in health care expenses."

The state-run, locally-staffed hotline has served 1.5 million—or 75 percent—of the population, Vestal writes. In addition to providing a basic form of health care to thousands of uninsured people, "it also has relieved demand on doctors and hospitals in a sparsely populated state where all but a few counties have a severe shortage of health care providers" and "generated real-time public health data that has served as an early warning system during epidemics and natural disasters."

NurseAdvice New Mexico has become so successful that it "has a 98 percent customer approval rating and a compliance rate of 85 percent, meaning callers heed the nurses’ advice and either care for themselves at home, go to a doctor or go directly to a hospital based on the nurses’ orders," Vestal writes.

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