The George Washington University Colonial Health Center has plans for innovations aimed at improving the student experience and accommodating the needs of GW students. Improvements being announced include insurance affordability, access to mental health services, and the implementation of electronic health records, among others.
Danielle Lico, associate dean of students for student administrative services, said the changes to the Colonial Health Center in the next academic year are important steps in providing accessible, high-quality care to the GW student community.
“As we look toward the fall, we are excited to continue to work with students to implement these changes, which are just the first of many steps in transforming the Colonial Health Center to meet the evolving holistic care of our students,” Ms. Lico said.
Peak Sen Chua, president of the Student Association, said that health has been a priority of his administration. He, along with council chair and Student Association Director of Student Health Services Reed Waxham, established the Student Association’s Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) in September after conversations with students and administrators about concerns and vision for the CHC.
Mr. Chua explained that the changes that will be implemented in the next academic year came after meetings with university administrators to comprehensively review the CHC and how policy changes can improve the student experience.
“These changes will improve the quality of care in the CHC, eliminate barriers to mental health care and expand the health center's services to impact the daily lives and long-term health of students,” Mr. Chua said. “I’m excited to see the CHC take a crucial step in becoming a more student-centered resource on campus.”
Mr. Waxham explained that the SHAC was established to give students a voice on initiatives in the CHC. He added that the discussions to improve health care at GW brought students and university administrators together.
“These changes will go a long way in advancing the health and well-being of the student body and improving the quality of care at the Colonial Health Center,” Mr. Waxham said. “And while these changes represent a dramatic improvement in healthcare at GW, the Student Health Advisory Council will continue to advocate to improve care and access to it.”
The CHC will undergo renovations to help better utilize space. After they are completed, there will be more counseling offices, a lab expansion and better-optimized patient flow. The CHC will also make the center easier to navigate with directional signage and other updates to the center’s appearance.
Also, beginning fall 2018, all undergraduate students, both new and returning, will be required to provide evidence that they have health insurance.
Currently all international students holding F-1 and J-1 visas, all nursing and health sciences students enrolled in programs that take place at GW and all medical students must provide evidence of health insurance.
Starting this fall, these students, as well as all undergraduate students enrolled in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Business, the School of Engineering and Applied Science or the Milken Institute School of Public Health will be automatically enrolled in the GW health insurance plan and must submit an opt-out waiver if they have another insurance plan that meets the required criteria.
Students in the College of Professional Studies will not be subject to this new requirement.
Specific waiver criteria are available on the Colonial Health Center website.
Final costs of the GW health insurance plan for the 2018-2019 academic year are expected to be about $2,750, significantly lower than the current rate of $4,103 for undergraduate students to purchase the plan.
Ms. Lico said the new policy will remove barriers that prevent students from accessing necessary medical care and will also help students stay in school should they face any unexpected medical emergency.
“This shift in policy is an important step in ensuring that GW students are able to seek the medical care necessary to maintain their health and will bring GW in line with our peer institutions,” Ms. Lico said. “It is just one of a number of changes that will help the clinical staff within the Colonial Health Center provide excellent and integrated care to our students.”
The university also next year will eliminate the fee for individual counseling sessions within the short-term stepped-care model, making the service more accessible to GW students.
The CHC plans to expand its counseling services to the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. The center also plans to provide nutritional counseling by a dietician. Mr. Waxham said the new dietician services will ensure that care extends beyond the health center to a healthier student body overall.
The Colonial Health Center also plans to implement an electronic health records (EHR) system that will help staff in the center assess each student’s individual needs with convenient electronic access to a patient’s medical history. Mr. Waxham explained that this change will noticeably improve the quality of care students will receive.