How digital solutions are changing healthcare on college campuses

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as many as 20.5 million students were enrolled in colleges in the U.S. in 2016. And although this count includes smaller institutions, universities often offer attendees a number of services including access to regular healthcare.

Unlike a traditional doctor's office, campus health centers see regular turnover as students come and go. This can create an extra strain on resources and present new challenges for practice management. The latest in health IT can give physicians the tools to treat students and offers administrators additional flexibility to help manage this unique population.

Integrating patients
Research published in the Journal of American College Health found that students use on-campus healthcare facilities for a number of purposes, from primary care and seeking vaccinations to mental health services. For that reason, these practices accommodate different needs while also being inviting and easy. Students may not seek care if they believe it will take too long or be inefficient.

EHR systems can contain a student's health history from freshman year through graduation. This may include information shared by an individual's existing primary care physician, as well as data compiled while attending college. For those living with a chronic condition or receiving on-going treatment, this gives physicians and nurses the ability to better monitor a student's health and maintain a more intimate patient relationship, despite juggling thousands of students.

Addressing administrative concerns
Behind the scenes, the right practice management software can address the specific challenges of managing an on-campus practice. Records, health data, immunization records and more can be quickly stored on an EHR, giving physicians and administrators the ability to effectively handle an increasingly high patient volume. 

At the same time, billing services are also simplified using HIPAA-compliant services. Insurance reimbursements become easier to track and receive along with other claims like outstanding student debt. Because college students may not have experience in scheduling appointments and following-up, digital interfaces and patient portals promote better understanding. This gives administrators the ability to automate many tasks to avoid being overwhelmed by daily challenges.

Tackling health issues on college campuses
For a number of reasons, college students may be more prone to disease outbreak. For example, the National Meningitis Association reported that from 2013 to 2016, there were outbreaks of meningococcal disease on five different college campuses. Other illnesses may also be common at universities, including sexually transmitted diseases.

This represents a unique problem for on-campus healthcare practices. Monitoring the spread of illness is critical for establishing protocols and preventing serious outbreaks. Student EHRs are essential to tracking potential epidemics. These contain quantitative data like when a student got sick and demographic information as well as qualitative factors such as where someone may have been exposed. This gives physicians, administrators and school officials the tools to learn more about a specific bout of disease and create policies and procedures to stem its spread. This can also inform best practices for the future, including new health protocols or even educational efforts. 

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Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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