It always seems to happen at the most inconvenient time or place. A worrisome health issue comes up and you've got questions. If only you had a medical professional standing by to answer your immediate questions over the phone no matter when or where.

Enter - the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line.

Beginning May 12, 2014, Hawaii TRICARE beneficiaries can call the Nurse Advice Line (NAL) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for professional medical advice.

Registered nurses are available to answer a variety of urgent healthcare questions and help beneficiaries decide whether self-care is the best option or if it's better to see a healthcare provider.

LTC Beverly Inocencio, Nurse Executive for the Pacific Regional Medical Command Army Medical Home Team says although beneficiaries can still call their Primary Care Manager or clinic, the new live-phone service gives patients more options.

"It's another avenue to reach a qualified medical professional to get questions answered without having to wait on the phone, schedule an appointment or deal with traffic and parking," she said.

Callers of the toll-free number can expect a customer service representative to verify eligibility before being connected with an experienced and trained registered nurse who will ask a series of standard questions, allowing them to provide the best advice possible.

NAL also has the potential of decreasing emergency room visits to only true emergencies.

"The NAL soft-launched in 12 medical facilities where 95 percent of the callers had an intention of going to the Emergency Department. Once the nurse helped them navigate through their symptoms, 51 percent ended up just needing self-care with 20 percent needing same-day appointments or urgent care."

The Nurse Advice Line can also work in tandem with another TRICARE tool.

"The Nurse Advice Line and the TRICARE Online Portal are two tools that give beneficiaries the ability to take charge of their healthcare. Beneficiaries can look up their own health information, referral status and even communicate with providers all from the comfort of home through TRICARE Online," Inocencio said.

To access the NAL, once it launches, dial 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273); Option 1.