NEWS

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October 17, 2008

Consulting firm to evaluate campus student health care options

Major changes are in store for student health care at the University in the upcoming years. On the heels of a shift to a new insurance provider, the University has hired Keeling & Associates (K&A), a higher education consulting firm, to reevaluate the University’s current health care services. On Wednesday, Student Government (SG) sponsored a town hall–style meeting with representatives from K&A to discuss concerns about existing student health issues and suggestions for the future.

K&A will work with representatives from the University Medical Center, the Student Care Center (SCC), the Student Counseling & Resource Service (SCRS), the physical education and athletics department, provosts, human resources, and three SG appointees to examine ways to improve facilities, care, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of student health care.

Deborah Burnet, the head of internal medicine at the University Medical Center, and Kimberly Goff-Crews, vice president and dean of students, will co-chair the Health Review Committee. In the near future, the SCC will move to a yet undetermined location, and how to best utilize a new facility will be one of the Committee’s main priorities.

Richard Keeling, director of K&A and the former directors of student health at the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, said the firm is committed to hearing from students directly. In addition to Wednesday’s meeting, a focus group made up of randomly selected students and volunteers met with Keeling on Thursday, and an online survey to be sent to a random sample of students in the upcoming weeks will play an important role in the firm’s information gathering efforts. Unlike the survey and focus group, Wednesday’s gathering was not a pre-selected group and was largely comprised of students with significant grievances to express.

Keeling said that based on a preliminary look at data provided by the University, students do not use SCC services and resources as much as students use similar facilities at peer institutions. Students in attendance did not seem surprised, noting that the SCC has a bad reputation around campus. Many felt that the SCC has not been sensitive to the needs of the student population. The SCC’s hours often conflict with class schedules, and unlike health-care facilities at peer institutions, it does not offer walk-in or same-day appointments for immediate concerns. College fourth-year Kati Proctor recalled having been told by SCC representatives to wait two weeks before seeing a SCC doctor for a cold.

The students who did manage to get appointments at the SCC had other complaints.

“The SCC is effective, but impersonal,” third-year College student Morgan Warfield-Reich said. She said that the SCC does not provide the service of primary care physicians, and students have to start fresh with a new doctor on every visit, a particular problem for students with chronic health issues.

Many felt that communication about health issues is a general problem at the University—case in point, many did not receive the email announcing Wednesday’s meeting. Students are often unclear about what services are included in the University health fee and are unpleasantly surprised by bills from SCC referrals. In addition, many students are not aware of some of the services provided by the SCC, some in attendance said.

In remarks after the meeting, Daniel Silverman, a physician and a health care administrator with K&A, said that he hopes to work with staff and students to foster a sense of “health care literacy” at the University, so that the system will be more navigable in the future.

K&A will continue to analyze data gathered from student focus groups and surveys, and will present its recommendations to the University in December. At that time, Keeling said, K&A will meet with students again to discuss the recommendations. However, he reminded students that ultimately it is the University’s job to implement new policies and make changes.