Op/Ed: Student Health Center changes to tackle student discontent
As the new Medical Director for the Student Health Center, I wanted to take an opportunity to introduce myself and update the AU student community to some of the big updates and improvements that are happening. Last spring, several of the Center’s administrative and clinical staff (including the director) left the University. While the University was recruiting new staff, they had to hire temporary health providers to see patients. Although this rotating staff was qualified and competent, some students experienced understandable frustration with the continuity of care and the overall perceived quality of care they received.
During this time, the Office of Campus Life was very aware of the challenges the Center faced. When I interviewed for the position of medical director they were very transparent with regard to these transitions. Given my experience and background in college health, adolescent medicine and healthcare administration, I saw these challenges as great opportunities to grow and enhance the healthcare experiences for AU students. In fact, I made the decision to come to AU because it was clear that the University was committed to providing students with a significantly improved student health experience.
Since starting at AU in December, we have begun the “reboot” process for the Student Health Center and I want to share some of the notable improvements that have been implemented, as well as ones that are upcoming:
● Starting last month, we have begun holding evening hours on Mondays and Thursdays until 8 p.m. This way, we can better accommodate all of our students’ busy schedules even if they have full days of classes, internships, etc. Similarly, our psychiatric nurse practitioner now also holds expanded office hours on those days.
● This semester we have initiated patient scheduling changes to better accommodate our students. Previously, all patients were assigned 15 minute appointments, regardless of their health concern. We recognized that this was often not enough time for patients, especially if they had more complicated issues (such as STI screens or very personal problems). Now, many of the more complicated problems are allotted 30 minute visits. This not only helps to improve the quality of patient care, but it helps to ensure that providers will be able to provide this care without making subsequent patients wait too long to be seen.
● We have started the process of choosing and implementing a comprehensive electronic medical record system that will help to streamline processes such as online appointment scheduling, immunization compliance, and communication between students and providers. We are hoping that it will result in students having more flexible and reliable options for managing their health care.
● I have personally been reaching out and meeting with student groups on campus as well as other Campus Life organizations in order to see what improvements and initiatives can serve the diverse student population at AU. For example, starting this spring I plan to implement an LGBT Health Initiative through the Student Health Center.
● We just received notice that the Student Health Center achieved full accreditation with the Accrediting Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc. This is a prestigious achievement which is only awarded to health centers who meet stringent quality criteria.
● As of April, the SHC will be fully staffed with full-time, vetted and experienced medical providers who are dedicated to working with college students.
As you can see, this is a really exciting time for the Student Health Center. My expectation is that the aforementioned improvements are only the beginning of our upgrade to “Student Health Center 2.0.” I encourage our students to give us constructive feedback on their experiences at email@example.com. If you have a good experience with the Student Health Center, let us know. If your experience did not meet your expectations, we want to hear that, too, so that we can serve you, our students, with the best healthcare experience possible. I look forward to working with you and I have confidence that these changes will significantly enhance your American University experience.
Dr. David Reitman is the Medical Director of the American University Student Health Center.