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News, University News

Brown Health Services available to students on, off College Hill

Health Services offers remote, in-person appointments for students near and far

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Health Services aims to provide accessible remote care to students on College Hill and at home through phone calls and videoconferencing.

Students can now access remote health care around the globe alongside continued in-person care— as Health Services has transitioned to providing care virtually in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The changes have been pretty dramatic for everyone,” said Executive Director of Health and Wellness and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Dr. Vanessa Britto MS’96, but “we are open for students who are on-campus and off-campus.”

Health Services aims to provide accessible remote care through phone calls and videoconferencing, according to Britto. “We have students call, and we talk with them about whatever their issues may be,” she said. “We can certainly follow up with any student who has a question or concern.” To utilize the service, students can call and schedule a time to speak with a provider remotely.

Health Services also remains open for students who are currently living on- and off-campus in the Providence area. “For those students who need to come on-site to be seen, we have a very small team of clinical providers” who are available for “any urgent needs that students have.” Britto added that students should call before coming in, as “we don’t have the person power and the capacity” to handle walk-ins and more routine concerns. 

But she emphasized that “we would absolutely want to talk with someone, find out what the concern was and then help them manage it on a case-by-case basis.”

Kathryn Thompson PhD’22, president of the Graduate Student Council and doctoral student at the School of Public Health, commended Health Services’ telehealth efforts. Keeping in mind the needs of undergraduate, medical and graduate students, “Health Services has done a really good job of … responding very quickly and then offering services for students who are not only here on-campus but also off-campus,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that even for students on-campus and in Providence, providers at Health Services are skilled at screening for ailments that can be handled virtually, in order to limit exposure. However, “there are some things that you do need to see a physician or a nurse practitioner face-to-face (for), and I think they do a pretty good job of identifying that,” Thompson said.

For students away from campus, Health Services is still working with the same providers, Britto said. “That’s a really good thing, in that people are familiar with the providers, and the providers are certainly familiar with our students.”

Additionally, Health Services’ pharmacy can still dispense medication to students in the Providence area or in Rhode Island, Britto said. Due to licensure requirements, the pharmacy cannot mail medication out of state, but “the pharmacy can also transfer prescriptions to anywhere in the country that a student might be if they need a refill,” Britto said.

One area Thompson thinks Health Services could improve upon is the services and options provided during weekends. She knows students who have had to wait long periods of time to speak with a nurse and others who have had to figure out information about their prescriptions alone because of Health Services’ limited weekend availability.

To hopefully alleviate some stress about health-care coverage, Britto added that there are no changes to the University’s student health insurance plan. “Nothing has changed; everything is in place. People can be seen around the country, (as) UnitedHealthcare is a national network. Everywhere where UnitedHealth is accepted, the health plan will be in place,” Britto said. Virtual visits are also covered, according to a news release regarding University student health insurance.

Health Services has also been working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health, whose communication “has been … consistent but evolving,” Britto said, adding that this communication has been near daily. 

Overall, Thompson believes that having the option to see a physician virtually is extremely helpful. “Everyone is trying to figure out exactly how to offer the best services to students and be (as) efficient as possible during times when things are just so rapidly changing,” she said.

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