On October 23, Alex Lickerman (A.B. ’88, M.D. ’92), assistant vice president of Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS), e-mailed students regarding changes to his department which will increase accessibility to healthcare services on campus. These changes follow up on several chronic grievances regarding SHCS, which were documented last spring by the student-run Tumblr, “Student Health Horror Stories.” SHCS has acted swiftly since then, and the changes thus far will unquestionably alleviate some of those issues. However, in order to ensure that these steps translate into truly improved services, SHCS must effectively implement and build upon these changes.
Consistency is particularly important in regard to Student Health Services (SHS), which operates under the SHCS umbrella. In January 2012, the sudden departure of a physician from SHS slowed down primary care service significantly and stripped away the oft-unmet 24-hour guarantee for appointments that SHS had promised before then. Although the vacancy was filled after three months and the SHS subsequently adjusted to a more reasonable 24 to 48 hour guarantee, students still complained that the wait for appointments was often much longer. Responding to these recent issues, SHS has added weekend hours and will now be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Extended hours can help ameliorate the back-up that results from high demand for primary care. Given the notoriety that SHCS has accrued for the inconsistency of its services, SHS needs to maintain the appropriate amount of staff and even consider extending hours in the long-term. While changes like the departure of an essential staff member are oftentimes unpredictable, responding quickly for the sake of being consistent is crucial to student satisfaction.
Another notable change is the increase in transparency that SHCS has adopted in regard to receiving and acting upon student and patient input. Particularly commendable is SHS’s sister program Student Counseling Service (SCS), which launched a pilot feedback program in April 2013 inviting patients to complete an online patient satisfaction survey. SCS has published an aggregate of the responses it accumulated from May 21 to August 31 on its Web site and has committed to act upon the feedback to evaluate and improve its services. While this new feedback system is in its initial stages, SCS should continue to not only administer these surveys, but also publish the input that they get on a regular basis so they are held accountable for making relevant changes. Receiving and executing feedback is the most effective way to tailor SHS and SCS to student needs.
SHCS has not been without its faults. Given the high demand for SHS services, past students—and even many current students—have had trouble booking timely appointments. But the recent changes, many of which have occurred within the past year, demonstrate not only that rapid and effective change can occur, but also that these changes can affect students immediately and positively. SHCS’s goal to improve accessibility has extended beyond physical building hours, and it should continue this trend of transparency and quick execution. Its actions thus far should set a precedent for other student life-related departments on campus.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.