From the Daily: Wrongly eliminated

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published May 15, 2012

As college students, it goes without saying that we lead busy lives. Four-hour labs, club meetings and study sessions fill up most of our time here at the University. When we get sick, it’s a nuisance to deal with, and it can be difficult to find time to seek medical attention. On May 14, University Health Services implemented a policy that will eliminate walk-in appointments, except when there’s an emergency. UHS should compromise and allow walk-in appointments at some times during the day to ensure that all students — whether they constitute having an “urgent” condition or not — are able to receive proper medical attention that same day.

After assessing the results of patient surveys over the last four years, UHS decided to switch to electronic patient records and eliminate walk-in appointments. UHS director Robert Winfield revealed that 85 percent of students were not satisfied with walk-in appointments, so in order to be more efficient, walk-in appointments were eliminated entirely. Students must have an urgent condition to be seen without an appointment.

While it’s commendable that UHS has taken the time to evaluate and implement policies in order to better serve the student body, eliminating walk-in appointments is not the way to help students. According to Winfield, the satisfaction level for walk-in appointments has decreased from 85 to 75 percent. This dissatisfaction is likely due to the wait time associated with walk-in appointments. However, the percentage of walk-in appointments has risen from 40 to 60 percent which indicates that while students may not be completely satisfied with the service, the majority of them still use it.

It’s a valid point that most students use the walk-in appointment service in the afternoon. Eliminating the service may cause those students who would have normally walked in to UHS to seek medical attention, to just avoid seeing a doctor altogether. Students’ schedules change rapidly and trying to schedule an appointment 24 hours can be pointless, as activities and homework assignments come up quickly. UHS is the only medical service within walking distance for most students, so students may not seek medical attention if they need to drive to another hospital and possibly wait a long time for service. If UHS is having trouble with an afternoon rush, they should look to set aside specific hours for walk-in appointments.

While students in serious condition are able to seek medical attention immediately, what constitutes an “urgent” condition is ambiguous. The appointment clerks and nurses must determine whether a patient is in serious condition, with no apparent guidelines. Students with urgent issues may be wrongly turned away, as some serious problems can only be discovered with a doctor’s examination.

While UHS is listening to students’ complaints and addressing these concerns as best it can, eliminating walk-in appointments entirely will only make it more difficult for students to seek medical attention when needed. Many students do take advantage of this service and are able to receive attention the very same day, despite having to wait at times. Only allowing walk-in appointments for students with “urgent” conditions leaves too much to interpretation. UHS should reverse its decision and allow walk-in appointments — if only for certain times of the day — to ensure that students are able to receive necessary medical attention at any time, regardless of the urgency of the condition.