New schedule part of larger effort to improve patient experience

April 2018 | This is an article I wrote for MIT’s student newspaper about changes to the clinic. View the original article here.

MIT Medical has changed its hours of operation on a trial basis for the month of April. The Urgent Care clinic is now open for fewer hours (8 a.m.–8 pm. daily), while other services, including the pharmacy, the radiology office, and the medical laboratory, have expanded their operational hours.

Very few visits occur in the hours before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., so there was little loss due to the Urgent Care clinic, which was previously open until 11 p.m., being closed earlier, MIT Medical Executive Director Ashley Hague said in an interview with The Tech. The shorter hours have allowed for a redistribution of resources to expand the hours of the other services, which are now open the same hours as Urgent Care.

This is advantageous, as it allows students requiring other services to have all of their medical services available on campus at the time of their visit, rather than them needing to seek external care, according to Hague. “We’ve gotten positive feedback from students and other patients about how convenient it has been,” Hague said.

After April, Urgent Care will keep its new hours of operation, though the other offices will revert back to their usual hours. However, depending on available resources, Hague suggested that the new hours may eventually become permanent.

The changes to the Urgent Care hours are part of a larger restructuring of many aspects of MIT Medical. Two years ago, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis began collecting assessments of students’ interactions with MIT Medical to create the Patient Journey Map, which charts out the various services offered to students, including initial Urgent Care visits, auxiliary services, and potential appointments.

One problem to be addressed is the Urgent Care clinic’s often long and unpredictable wait times, according to Hague. The clinic had begun to inform visitors of the number of patients waiting for appointments ahead of them, a process the clinic eventually hopes to automate.

In addition, MIT Medical will offer the opportunity to schedule appointments online, which will decrease wait times for patients as well as allow the clinic to adequately staff peak business hours, Hague said.

Students have also expressed concern over the lack of privacy in discussing health issues upon checking in at MIT Medical’s front desk, according to Hague. In response, the office aims to allow digital check-ins, as well as online check-ins in advance of appointments.

Because of the difficulty in securing the necessary technology, handling these issues will take time. Hague hopes to implement these measures within the upcoming year.

MIT Medical is also making efforts to improve how the student body perceives them, such as by redesigning the waiting room, developing a new online patient portal, and potentially renaming Urgent Care, which is misleading given the range of services the walk-in clinic provides, according to Hague.