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Clea Wurster: Ashe Center website must provide more efficient medical service information

(Jessie Hui/Daily Bruin)

By Clea Wurster

June 25, 2017, 8:42 pm

As UCLA students, we know we must use reliable sources, peer-reviewed journals and primary sources for our research. But when it comes to our health care, UCLA has us do basically the opposite.

Case in point: the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center website.

The Ashe Center website gives very little information about the specific services available to Bruins. In many cases, rather than providing information about the actual services and the costs of treatments, the website only allows users to book appointments. And the level of information given isn’t all that consistent: Some pages, such as the one for physical therapy, offer in-depth write-ups, whereas others, such as the one for STI testing, offer only basic overviews.

UCLA should revamp the Ashe Center website to provide comprehensive information about all its general services. This information should include options for birth control, medications and even treatment plans for common injuries such as ankle sprains. This would allow students to determine what treatment and medication options are available and what might be best for them based on cost and availability – something that’s especially important for students who are not on the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan.

It is important that students have the ability to make informed decisions and understand the health care they receive. The process of determining treatment or medication plans can often be complicated.

But it’s a different story if students know in advance whether the Ashe Center has what they need. Simple overviews of medications or treatments that include the costs and time commitments for common appointments, like those needed to refill prescriptions or prescribe medications such as birth control, could streamline students’ visits to the Ashe Center.

This would be helpful to students who often have to make appointments days or weeks out, only to find they cannot afford or do not want the specific services the Ashe Center provides.

[Related: UCLA must meet students’ needs for student health care services]

As of now, however, students tend to steer clear of the Ashe Center website when searching for information because it isn’t user-friendly or doesn’t have what they’re looking for.

“There is not a lot of information other than booking your appointment,” said Daniela Rodriguez, a first-year psychology student.

Rodriguez said she usually has to look online to find treatment options – some of which she finds incompatible with the Ashe Center’s services.

And students who aren’t enrolled in UC SHIP seem to have even more difficulty utilizing the website’s features. Jannat Alam, a first-year English and sociology student, said she uses other websites to find the information she’s looking for regarding medical options, only to find that sometimes these options aren’t actually available at the Ashe Center.

For example, Alam said she found little information about the copay for her medications, and added if there was more pricing information on the Ashe Center website, she would use it more often.

While the website does offer a pricing overview for exams and general appointments for students both with and without UC SHIP, it isn’t specific and, in many cases, simply states that students must pay the “full cost” without ever giving an indication of what that cost might be.

UCLA media representatives could not provide a statement about the Ashe Center’s website.

This lack of information can prove costly for non-UC SHIP students. First-year biology student Priscilla Olivarri said she found immunizations at the Ashe Center too expensive, but only after she went in for an appointment. Had she known beforehand, she could have saved both time and money spent on the $12 appointment copay for non-UC SHIP students – a hefty fee for simply talking to a doctor.

As such, the Ashe Center needs to update its website to more readily include vital logistical information about its services – be that for medications, treatment schedules or expenses.

For example, the center could include overviews, descriptions and costs of each service offered, along with commonly used medications on each menu item, such as “Women’s Health.” When specific medications are mentioned, the website could link other websites that give students reliable information about the medicines’ side effects and other important facts.

Doing so would allow students to gain a basic understanding of how their bodies might respond to medications, arrive at a personal preference or choice of treatment and eliminate the number of appointments needed to determine a course of treatment. Moreover, if students can come prepared to appointments, they would be better equipped to make use of the Ashe Center’s wealth of resources.

Certainly, the internet is full of websites offering information about health care options, but many of these sites are flooded with poorly sourced and even false information about health services pertinent to students. If the Ashe Center took the time to redesign its website to better compile reliable information, students would have fewer questions that required appointments, thus saving time and decreasing demand for the center’s limited appointments.

Students deserve to be informed about their health care. The Ashe Center has a responsibility to inform students of their health care options and provide them with time- and cost-efficient access to this information.

Otherwise, students will continue to peruse quack websites and pay unnecessary fees just to get their medical information.

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