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As part of an effort to shorten waiting times and personalize medical care, University Health Services (UHS) has eliminated its walk-in clinic and replaced it with an appointment system.
The procedure, established this semester, will facilitate a new UHS health-care program in which patients are encouraged to see the same physicians and nurses each time they visit UHS.
UHS Director David S. Rosenthal '59 said the reorganization, which had been in the works for a year, was conducted to "provide better health care... and to prevent people from having to wait for their health care and also to provide a continuity of medical care."
Instead of arriving at Holyoke Center and waiting for the first available physician, students and Harvard affiliates will now be able to obtain a 15-minute appointment within one day of calling the reception desk, UHS officials said yesterday.
While the walk-in system had its advantages, "long waits are typical of walk-in clinics and are one reason why student health services have bad reputations," said Charles H. Weingarten, chief of medicine at UHS.
In the past, "depending on the crowd, people might have to wait considerable amounts of time and not know when they would see a physician," he said.
But under the new system, Weingarten said, "instead of seeing people that are bored and restless, I'm seeing people who have broken into a sweat from running [to make their appointments.]"
Patients who are five minutes late will lose their appointment under the new procedure.
Weingarten said that the system of 15-minute appointments will not force physicians to cut short patient visits in order to adhere to tight timetables. Doctors will have discretionary time built into their schedules so they can extend appointments or see more pressing cases later in the day.
Cases requiring immediate attention will also be able to bypass the system. A new "Urgent Care Clinic" on the first floor of Holyoke Center will treat emergency cases in order of urgency.
And the new procedure will allow patients to make appointments with their regular physicians, who will be working in teams of three or four with two or three nurse-practitioners.
Changes in Progress
First-year students have already been given the names and phone numbers of one nurse and one physician who will be their primary care providers. Sophomores, juniors and seniors will be phased into the program later, Rosenthal said.
"People are encouraged to have a primary physician or nurse-practitioner," Weingarten said. "It just makes for better care because if you come in to see [new physicians, they have] to get to know the patient all over again. And just having a relationship makes for better care."
Further reorganization at UHS is forthcoming. In about six weeks, the specialist clinics will be moved to the space freed up by the walk-in clinic, and the medical care teams will move upstairs, Weingarten said. Rosenthal added that a complete renovation and remodelling of UHS will probably also be forthcoming.
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