The College of Charleston (CofC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are joining forces to provide enhanced student health care, including psychiatric services, to CofC students.
The effort will be a phased, multiyear initiative. In the first year, expanded services will include access to MUSC’s 24/7 Virtual Urgent Care platform, telepsychiatry services and on-site psychiatry services, improved availability to clinical care and integrated imaging, and lab and pharmacy services. In addition, an on-site operations manager hired through MUSC will collaborate and support the College of Charleston’s Student Health Services with the goal of streamlining service delivery. The College is in the process of developing several additional collaborations to provide COVID-19 testing to students.
“We are very excited to start this expanded relationship with MUSC. Our work together will provide enhanced care for our students and increase support for our excellent team in Student Health Services,” said Alicia Caudill, executive vice president for student affairs. “This has come at a time when we will have an elevated focus on student health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are fortunate to be able to engage with the incredible resources offered by MUSC. In addition to providing 24/7 telehealth for students, this initiative will also provide enhanced psychiatric services for students who need them. This collaboration will give our students a premier health experience during their time at the College.”
“MUSC and the College of Charleston have been cooperative neighbors for years,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., CEO of MUSC Health and vice president for Health Affairs, University. “This student health collaboration allows us to expand our working relationship to contribute jointly to the high-quality convenient care that students appreciate. The availability of 24/7 virtual urgent care will be a tremendous asset as CofC students return to campus in the fall and as we continue our fight against COVID-19.”
CofC’s Student Health Services (SHS), located in the heart of the College’s campus in downtown Charleston, offers a range of medical care services, including visits for illness and infection, asthma care, allergy shots, gynecological care, first aid and injuries, vaccines, eye problems and mental health care, among others.
SHS provides approximately 15,000–17,000 unique student visits per year. The number of students that SHS can treat is dependent upon the office’s physical space, the number of providers on staff and the hours the medical facility is open. The number of appointments per year have remained stable, observed SHS Director Bridget McLernon Sykes, noting that, at peak times of the year, meeting the demand for care can be challenging.
And those challenges extend to mental health, too, stated Michael Duncan, associate vice president for student involvement and interim director of the College’s Counseling Center. The addition of telepsychiatry services through the relationship with MUSC will support and expand the Counseling Center’s existing services.
“We do think there was a greater need for psychiatric services than was being met,” said Duncan. “This will ensure that students who need these types of services have access to that care.”
Through the collaboration, MUSC will offer 24/7 virtual urgent care appointments at no cost to enrolled CofC students who are physically present in the state of South Carolina. With 24/7 virtual care, many students can be seen from the safety of their own homes, reducing density on campus and in the clinic, which allows providers to focus on patient care that requires an in-person component.
“There are many days out of the year, particularly during flu season and at exam times, when the number of students seeking to make an appointment exceeds our availability,” said McLernon Sykes. “SHS has the capacity to see approximately 100 students per day, but with the 24/7 virtual urgent care, that capacity will greatly increase both during normal operating hours as well as outside of the normal hours of in-person care. And the collaboration allows providers to have consultations with infectious disease experts as needed, in addition to providing students with access to MUSC’s vast network of specialty care.”
Virtual urgent care is the first component of the expanding relationship to launch this fall. Once the operations manager is on board, MUSC will conduct a thorough assessment of the current health care services SHS provides and offer recommendations for improvement and implement any agreed upon initiatives.