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Using Phone Screening to Evaluate Patients with Symptoms of COVID-19

More than 160 community members adopt new phone triage guidelines in Epic

If you call the emergency hotline at Providence St. Joseph Health in Washington, Cone Health in North Carolina, or one of over 160 other Epic community members across the United States, a triage nurse might ask you the same set of questions to check for symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Health systems around the country are using new standard questions and adapting workflows to screen more patients for the virus over the phone.

Providence St. Joseph and Cone Health were among the first to use a new COVID-19 telephone protocol designed by clinical content vendor Schmitt-Thompson and recently released in Epic’s Foundation System. The protocol guides nurses in Epic as they assess patients for signs of COVID-19 or another illness like seasonal flu, which helps nurses across organizations give consistent care advice.

Schmitt-Thompson worked with Epic to distribute the COVID-19 protocol for free to any healthcare organization that wants it. The protocol is being updated as recommendations change, and updated versions are released automatically in Epic. Organizations can use the published questionnaires on their own or modify them to include organization-specific protocols.

With consistent clinical call documentation, hospitals can watch the type and volume of calls, evaluate their strategy, and monitor cases in the community. For example, if a patient who has called in to report symptoms comes to the ED for treatment later, clinicians can review the call history in the patient’s chart to learn when symptoms started and what steps the patient has already taken.

Epic community members can learn more the COVID-19 call center protocol and access files needed to start using it on the UserWeb. They can also refer to the Managing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) With Epic white paper, which is being updated daily with new guidance related to COVID-19.