The healthcare services fee of $2.50 per credit was instituted in spring 2016 to help Metro State comply with a Minnesota statute requiring state universities to offer health services to students.
Instead of building an on-campus clinic, Metro State selected a web-based healthcare service called OnCare. Jodee Fitzgerald was hired as Healthcare and Wellness Services Coordinator.
OnCare is a telemedicine platform of Fairview Health Services. After creating an account, students can input their symptoms and receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. Only common and minor conditions like colds, urinary tract infections, and pink eye are covered. The OnCare visit is free; students pay for any prescribed medicines.
Metro State pays a set amount to the company, irrespective of how many students use the OnCare service. As of October, Metro State has collected $415,493.15 from student fees and spent $49,461.06. Of that, $40,993.76 went to salary and benefits for the healthcare coordinator, and $8,467.30 to healthcare services, according to Bruce Biser, Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
“We’ve built up a balance there. The online diagnostic tool that our students were going to use, apparently the pre-screening threw out a lot more students than we anticipated. Outside of paying for Jodee Fitzgerald’s salary and the diagnostic tool which is getting minimal use, there are no other expenses,” said Biser. “We’re trying to figure out, short of a clinic, what we can provide for students. It’s a work in progress.”
Given the low utilization of OnCare, the Student Senate is planning to campaign for a traditional on-campus healthcare facility, said Dhibo Hussein, the former Student Senate President.
“We opted for the online model first, because many students are online students, but now we are looking into having one central location like on the St. Paul campus where we have the College of Nursing and Health Sciences,” she said. The Student Affairs committee is also working with the healthcare coordinator to see what they can do to improve the online healthcare service.
Tom Cook, Special Assistant to President Arthur, said the university is working hard to inform students about OnCare. The university will spend more time and resources in advertising the service in coming months, he said.
The ultimate decision whether to opt for a traditional clinic or continue with the online healthcare service will be made with input from the Student Senate, said Cook.