CHOP and its Poison Control Center Help Keep Philadelphians Out of the Hospital and Assist in Coordinating Employee Testing

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people in office building call center During this time of unprecedented need in our community, region, and world, The Poison Control Center at CHOP is acting nimbly, using our telehealth center to provide two new resources.

For our patients, families, and the entire Philadelphia community, The Poison Control Center partnered with the City of Philadelphia to open a Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline. As potential exposure to COVID-19 increased within our own institution and surrounding communities, a second, employee-specific Helpline was added so employees could have their risk levels evaluated and testing coordinated by CHOP RNs in a one-stop experience.

A diverse team of staff keeps the Helpline, located at The Poison Control Center in the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research, open 24/7.

“Our Helpline has handled over 15,000 calls in three weeks. To put this in perspective, this call volume rivals a busy two-month call volume at The Poison Control Center,” said Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCPPS, Managing Director of the Poison Control Center at CHOP.

Calls are coming in from the public, patients and families, and health care providers outside of CHOP in our surrounding region seeking some extra guidance. In addition, a good number of our own employees are calling seeking information.

The public Helpline provides expertise for a variety of concerns. “Some callers are sick and need appropriate triage. Others are worried and need a problem-solver,” added Trella. A good number of aren’t sick, but are still feeling worried.

“If they don’t need to leave their homes, we are aiming to keep the people of our region out of the hospital. If they do need to seek care, we are guiding them to make sure they do so in a way that is safe for our health care providers and community” said Trella.

Common questions from the public Helpline include:

  • “I am experiencing some symptoms and don’t know what to do.”
  • “Should I go to the Emergency Room to get a coronavirus test?”
  • “I am older and work at a store that is considered essential. How can I stay safe at work?”
  • “I am sick and have a child with a chronic condition. How can I protect them?”
  • “Is it safe for me to open packages?”
  • “Where can I get a test?”

“While the bread and butter of the Helpline is assessing a callers’ concerns and triaging them to the appropriate care, we want to ensure callers always learn meaningful things to do to stay safe and healthy” said Kevin Osterhoudt M.D., Medical Director of the Poison Control Center at CHOP.

“Some may not be sick enough to go to the hospital or get a test, but they need guidance on what symptoms to monitor for that could warrant seeking additional care. The Helpline is here to do just that.”

The Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline has been promoted widely and cited by City of Philadelphia leadership as an educational resource, including the Mayor and health commissioner. Our impact reaches those closest to us, our own employees and families, and also extends beyond the walls of the CHOP enterprise by serving our entire region.

The team at The Poison Control Center at CHOP would like to offer their deepest gratitude to everyone who stepped up to offer services and resources to ensure the Helpline could succeed. This includes CHOP Executive Leadership, Human Resources, the Department of Nursing and Clinical Care Services, Philadelphia medical schools including Penn, PCOM, Drexel, and Temple, and every CHOP employee who signed up to help by way of CHOP’s Talent Marketplace.

Contact: Joey McCool Ryan, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, (267) 258-6735 or

Post Categories: COVID-19

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