Barnard students will no longer have to pick up the phone to make an appointment at Primary Care Health Service, thanks to a new website that will allow them to schedule nonemergency medical health visits online.
Open Communicator, which launched this semester, will allow students to make appointments for physical examinations, gynecological and chronic issues, and refilling contraception prescriptions. While the new website will help with scheduling, it may not alleviate wait times, which students complain are problematically slow.
“This component offers students more freedom to book appointments and securely communicate with their providers on their own schedule,” Mary Joan Murphy, Barnard's executive director of Student Health and Wellness Programs, said in an email.
Murphy said that the program was designed to give students flexibility to make appointments online instead of having to wait to make an appointment over the phone during the office's business hours.
She hopes that the ability to book medical visits online will ultimately allow the office staff to work more efficiently to accommodate students—though she said that the office hasn't seen much of a change yet to student communication with PCHS.
“We expect that we will receive fewer phone calls from students to schedule appointments, which will make our staff more available to field other questions and help students navigate our services,” Murphy said.
The launch of Open Communicator is the final step in PCHS to make its operations more digital. Last January, PCHS unveiled Point and Click, an electronic medical records system that was designed to be more organized and efficient than its predecessor Practice Partner. Murphy said that there were no plans to extend the online appointment system to Furman Counseling Center, but that they would “evaluate whether it makes sense to expand the system to include scheduling health education counseling sessions with Well Woman.”
Barnard's Student Health Advisory Committee and a group of students piloted the website last semester and gave feedback before launching the site to the general student body.
Since the site's roll-out, not much has been done to advertise the change—though Barnard Health Services and the Student Health Advisory Committee plan to collaborate to inform students about the new online updates.
“I didn't know we could make appointments,” Elana Nachshin, BC '15, said. “That's great.”
Students interviewed on Monday said that the capacity to make appointments on the website would be more convenient than doing them by phone or stopping by during office hours.
“It will be an added convenience,” Jena Gillis, BC '15, said. “It's hard to get down there with my class schedule.”
“I've gone with friends for emotional support for uncomfortable things,” Nachshin said. “It'd be more comfortable if they'd had an appointment.”
Previously, many students had resorted to using walk-in hours because they had problems receiving medical attention, but even then long wait-times at Barnard Health Services were troublesome.
“You can't guarantee how long you'll be there,” Elana Chon, BC '14, said.
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