Student Health Center introduces online appointment scheduling


Kelly McHale

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center implemented its new medical record system on Nov. 2. One of the immediate changes for students is the option to schedule appointments at the Student Health Center online. Dr. Louise Hanson, director of the SHC, said they were excited to be able to offer online scheduling.

“I think one of the big plusses of this new system is the online appointment option which in the old system was never an option,” Hanson said. “And we didn’t like that and I know our students didn’t like that. So we’re real excited about that possibility.”

In order for students to schedule an online appointment, they must have a My Health account with Vanderbilt. While the SHC has been signing up students who visit the SHC and don’t have an account yet, Hanson said that there may still be many students who are not signed up.

“Of the visits that probably only accounts for about 60 percent of the student body any given year coming in,” Hanson said. “So there’s probably a good percentage of the student body that doesn’t have [an account].”

According to Hanson, the online appointment scheduling will be one of the most visible changes for students with the new VUMC medical record system. For VUMC as a whole, the transition to the new system has been at least two years in the making, Hanson said.

“Every component of everything we do is changed–the computer software, the printers for labels for tubes of blood, the scheduling system, how we document, so it’s a huge undertaking,” Hanson said.

The SHC is one of the first clinics at VUMC to implement the online scheduling initiative. Each clinic in VUMC, however, will still be a part of the new medical records system even if every clinic does not offer online scheduling. Medical records can still be shared between clinics even if the appointment scheduling varies, Hanson said.

Initially, the SHC will offer online scheduling for same-day and next-day appointments. However, once the scheduling is fully implemented, students will be able to schedule various types of appointments.

“At first the only thing we can do is a somewhat limited rollout,” Dr. Hanson said. “But our goal–and we don’t know how long it’ll be, we’ll definitely message students when we know more–but we think it’ll be soon as in a few months that it’s going to be pretty much wide open, that any kind of appointment a student would need with rare exception, that they could schedule online.”

The SHC will be closed Saturdays in November and December in order to transition to the new medical records system. While acknowledging students’ potential frustration, Hanson also cited the limited number of students who visit the SHC on Saturdays as well as the importance of efficiently transitioning to the new system.

The SHC will still be on call for students with urgent questions about care. Other resources for students seeking care were listed in the Oct. 29 email from Dean of Students announcing the online schedule changes. These include the CVS Minute Clinic, Vanderbilt Belle Meade Walk-In Clinic, Walgreens Walk-In Clinic, and the 24/7 Vanderbilt Emergency Department for immediate needs.

Hanson said that one of the challenges the SHC faces with new changes in scheduling is student communication. She emphasized the difficulties of ensuring students are informed of the changes and closures of the SHC.

“We get that there’s a sort of a generational gap there with communication but all we can do is what we can do,” Hanson said. “We’re busy all day seeing patients and we’re doing our best to also manage that communication.”