June 28, 2022

College Health Clinics: Post-Pandemic Challenges and Solutions

College (or university) health clinics play a vital role in the wellbeing of university students and campus populations by providing…

College (or university) health clinics play a vital role in the wellbeing of university students and campus populations by providing primary and urgent medical care for free or at a low cost on a walk-in basis. Each year over 700 college health centers and their 8,500+ staff members diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries for 20 million students on an outpatient basis.

These clinics also provide ongoing care for students with chronic conditions and organize wellness education and services in areas such as nutrition, stress management, and mental health.

The valuable role of university health centers is supported by psychological research that has found that elevating healthcare in college is a key factor in advancing each student’s success. Student health and wellbeing are critical factors that contribute to school attendance and student retention, academic achievement, engagement in learning, emotional wellness, and ultimately, graduating with a degree. In addition, many university students do not have a primary care doctor and do not regularly get check-ups. University health centers thus provide highly accessible medical care to a population that would otherwise not seek it out or be in a position to access it.

What Challenges do College Health Clinics Face on Today’s Campuses?

Over the past several years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, college health centers have expanded their scope of services. Many injuries and illnesses can now be treated at ambulatory clinics, and this trend is evident in college health centers as well. In addition, the level and number of healthcare services that college health centers are expected to provide is on the rise, particularly in the areas of mental health and the spread of infectious diseases such as mono, COVID-19, and measles.. 

University health center directors have cited several challenges arising from increased services:

  • lack of qualified staff
  • high levels of staff member fatigue and stress
  • lack of quality and standards of care
  • increased cost of expanded services and personnel
  • an influx of students returning to campus post-pandemic and requiring multiple services including COVID-related care
  • unpredictable care needs due to walk-in patients
  • increased demand from the current generation of students for hyper-quick and convenient care

A study by the Washington Post found that during the COVID-19 pandemic many university health centers were unprepared for these challenges, resulting in college students waiting days and weeks for an appointment and receiving lackluster care and even critical misdiagnoses. Students in the post-pandemic era are now more health conscious and demand more from college health clinics than ever before, resulting in more work and increased demands on a fewer clinical staff. 

How Can College Health Clinics Overcome Challenges and Ensure Quality Healthcare?

A September 2021 survey by the American College Health Association found that college health center staff are burned out and complain of having to do more work without ample resources. When asked to name one thing they want from the university institutions that employ them, the number one answer was more staff.  

The answer to overcoming staff fatigue however, is not just hiring more staff. Except for well-funded brand name institutions, most universities cannot afford to hire more staff at ever-increasing costs. As is the case in non-campus healthcare systems, college health centers need to find ways to become more efficient and lighten the load for current staff, while still delivering high quality care to students. 

One way to facilitate this outcome is to adopt EHR and EMR software that links digital student health records to existing systems. Keeping track of student medical history and records in this way enables college health clinics to offer faster care, prescriptions, and lab results. It also enables other student services and academic departments to collaborate on student wellbeing and monitor overall campus health.

Most importantly, software solutions can help alleviate the current fatigue from staff shortages by removing time-consuming manual work and eliminating delays caused by human error from health clinic workflows. Alleviating paperwork-related stress and automating workflows for university health center staff will contribute to increased satisfaction and contribute to better care, whether that be improved wait times or faster diagnosis and treatment.

Take steps now to free up staff and student time! 

Relaymed is a quick, easy to implement, affordable (SaaS) middleware solution that can give a lift to your university health center staff. It allows results from point of care devices to be automatically transferred to an EHS or EMR system, with no human intervention. The outcome is immediate (important to the current generation of students!) and accurate results, more time for staff to perform valuable care-related services, and less overall stress. Relaymed is a simple fix that can go a long way to increasing the quality of healthcare on your campus.

We’re currently helping dozens of college healthcare centers get students’ test results securely and automatically into their EHRs. Let us give you a peak at how Relaymed can contribute to your health center care and cost goals. Sign up for a quick 15 minute demo!

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