Health center updates procedure, technology to decrease wait times

The health center is attempting to increase efficiency and reduce wait times for students by creating an appointment-scheduling procedure and transitioning to an electronic record-keeping system.

The health center previously served primarily as a walk-in, first come, first serve clinic. According to Deb Flynn, NP, director of medical services, and Diana Thurston, health center assistant, this format made the health center inefficient, as many students needed the services of a medical provider. This process thus created long wait times. The health center now encourages students to call ahead to schedule an appointment with one of the center’s providers prior to their visit.

“When students call ahead to schedule appointments, it creates a reduced patient wait time, as students know in advance when a provider is available to see them and can come in specifically at that time rather than idling in the waiting room until someone be-comes available,” Flynn said.

The appointment system also helps the staff of the health center, which will no longer be overwhelmed by large groups of students visiting at one time. Additionally, the staff will be able to pull up an individual’s medical records and have them ready when the patient arrives, rather than scrambling to do so for walk-ins.

Even with the introduction of the appointment system, the health center stressed that it’s still possible for students to make same-day appointments if they feel very ill.

“If a student wakes up in the morning and they call, we can see them same day,” Flynn said, adding that “we do our absolute best to work them in.”

The health center has also transitioned to an electronic record-keeping system, which has helped make the appointment process change possible. Students who come to the health center will sign into the electronic system when they check in. The record keeping is done in a secure electronic environment within this record. When the transition is complete, the health center will be able to compile data on student illness, which will improve the center’s ability to combat common student illnesses like the flu.

In electronic form, information including the number of sick students, the number of students inoculated and the number of students who have had this illness in previous years, becomes easily accessible. This information can be used to inform the health center on how to best handle illnesses as they affect students.

Future enhancements to the electronic system include a patient portal, which will be used for communication between the student and his provider, appointment setting, health education and forms.

First-years, who matriculated with the shift, have already had their records scanned into the system; however, the health center only scans in upperclassman records if they visit the health center after this change.

As Flynn explained, this is because of the sheer volume of information that remains to be scanned. The health center can’t prioritize upperclassman records without reducing the amount of time available to meet with students. The use of this new electronic record system also creates an even greater need for students to make appointments, as it helps staff to navigate the currently mixed-media medical records.

“There is a learning curve with this system because it is unlike anything the center has worked with in previous years,” said Flynn. She explained that the health center appreciates the patience and understanding of students as it navigates this change.

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