New health clinic should result in higher-quality care

Starting this summer, students who go to the clinic on campus will find a far more welcoming environment than the current clinic.

A new $25 million building for University Health Services will open May 19 after two years of construction. At four floors and 73,000 square feet, the building represents a substantial increase in space for health services on campus.

The new building includes more private exam rooms, making it easier for students to discuss their medical problems confidentially. It also features large, energy-efficient windows that bring lots of natural light into the clinic, which will reduce costs for heating and lighting.

For a university that prides itself on its medical facilities and at the same time is jockeying for top-20 status, this expanded student health building is step in the right direction. But a bigger building shouldn’t be an end in itself — rather, it should be a means for higher-quality care.

Ideally, the renovated space will enable the medical staff to treat student patients more efficiently and more quickly, allowing them to get back to their responsibilities without an extended stay in the waiting room. However, getting students in and out of the clinic quickly should not be the primary goal.

Quality medical care requires that the attending physician and assistants take the time to talk to patients in order to accurately diagnose and treat their symptoms. Especially since the clinic’s doctors generally are not the primary care physicians for many students, the medical staff should ensure that the appropriate amount of time is taken with each student for the purpose of fully discussing their medical history.

A more spacious building can help achieve this goal. With fewer overcrowded waiting rooms and treatment spaces, there will be less pressure on clinic staff to cycle through patients as quickly as possible.

While efficiency is an admirable quality that the new building hopes to promote, quality of care for individual student patients should not be sacrificed. University Health Services should keep this in mind as it prepares to move into its sizable new facility.