Opinion: ASU needs to make its patient portal more user-friendly

Booking a doctor's appointment or accessing medical records shouldn't be a hassle

When I was sick with the flu, trying to book an appointment with ASU Health Services was stressful. The program was not user-friendly and seemed outdated. I eventually gave up and fought the virus alone in my dorm room.  

Care facilities and other health organizations use patient portals to organize records and communicate with patients. Patients are able to use the system to contact their doctors, schedule appointments and access their medical histories.

When college students are ill, the last thing many want to do is navigate a difficult software to book a doctor's appointment. That said, ASU’s patient portal, operated through the company NextGen, should be updated, and the University should make it easier to navigate. 

Seeking health information or accessing medical records should be easy — not a hassle.

When people are sick they tend to be irritable, miserable and even incapacitated. A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine found that psychological stress can weaken the immune system.

According to a video ASU provides on its website, the current patient portal was implemented in 2014, almost five years ago.

On-campus health centers provide critical and — at times — necessary resources for the students they serve.

According to a Forbes article written by David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler, college health centers help students succeed.

"The demands on health centers are greater and more complex than ever," states the article. "More students today come to campus with significant health needs, including mental health challenges."

It would be beneficial to students if ASU made the portal more visually pleasing and easier to navigate. Currently, the site is daunting and confusing with its lack of organization. A direct link to book appointments should be front and center on the ASU Health Services website along with times and availability. 

Antonio Reyes, a senior studying public service and public policy, said he thinks that the site should be updated by next semester.

“I think that for new students, it could be a lot more inclusive,” Reyes said. “It’s barely helpful. I feel like using it shouldn’t be difficult especially when it regards health.”   

NextGen and ASU Health Services declined to comment about the patient portal system.

“I used it because I needed it,” Reyes said. “Had it been something minor, I would have tried to avoid it.”

Other universities have taken different approaches to their respective patient portals in order to help ill students.

Terri West, a senior program coordinator in the UA Campus Health administration office, said that UA's patient portal allows students to review information with their healthcare providers and achieve the "highest level of care" possible.

West said that students can book appointments at specific times that are marked available on the online patient portal. However, based on the type of service a student is seeking, West added that more interaction is added into the process. 

"We would prefer to talk to students about certain appointments," West said. "Sometimes there's more detail that needs to be known about the appointment because what we want to do is get the student in and seen effectively and not waste their time."  

While UA takes the time to follow up with appointment requests on its booking system, ASU fails to provide this extra level of care. 

This semester offers a good opportunity for the University to renovate the patient portal system due to other technological changes within ASU — such as the current transition from Blackboard to Canvas

The switch in educational management systems is considered an innovation for education. Innovating the student health system would be a great addition to the technological makeover that ASU seems to be pursuing in 2019.

Perhaps in the future ASU will update its system to be more user-friendly. Until then, students may have to struggle with a bottle of cold medicine and a box of tissues.

Reach the columnist at weveret1@asu.edu and follow @therealwillyevs on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the authors’ and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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