Students may notice a new $95 charge on their student accounts this semester. The charge is for Wildcat Care, a new fee for all undergraduates that allows access to telemedicine in connection with the Medical and Counseling Care Clinic (MACCC).
Through telemedicine company Timely MD, Wildcat Care allows students to get 24/7 access to medical providers through a portal on myACU. Kevin Campbell, vice president for enrollment management and student engagement, said ACU will be the first university in the country to combine telemedicine and an in-person clinic.
Here’s how it works:
If you get sick, you can get on Wildcat Care and fill out a short questionnaire with a list of your symptoms. A healthcare provider will respond through email, a phone call or a video call such as FaceTime. If the illness is common, like a sinus infection, the doctor can send a prescription online, and you can get medication without having to go to the clinic. If the illness requires testing, like strep or the flu, or if the symptoms are too complex to diagnose on the phone, the doctor will send you to the clinic for an in-person visit at no extra charge besides fees associated with the tests.
Campbell said students get up to four free telemedicine “visits” per semester. Visits to the clinic will cost $10 instead of $40. Counseling services are not included. Campbell also said because the university added the Wildcat Care fee in the middle of an academic year, students could opt out before classes started. The opt-out period closed when classes started Tuesday.
“At no point in my history at ACU do I ever recall a time where we have initiated a fee or changed a price in the middle of the academic year,” Campbell said. “That’s why we felt it was important … if they were concerned about that fee, we would allow them to opt out the spring semester.”
In future semesters, the fee automatically will be included in the “Tuition and Fees” portion of every undergraduate students’ bill.
Campbell said until now, ACU was the only one of its competitors that didn’t have a mandatory health fee. At Texas A&M University, for example, the health fee costs $70 per semester, and students still have to pay $20 for each visit to the clinic.
“We’ll be evaluating this as we go,” Campbell said. “Telehealth is going to continue to grow in popularity. My generation, a lot of people are more skeptical. … I think your generation, this is going to be how you interact with doctors going forward.”
Wildcat Care may help with some issues the clinic faced in the past, Campbell said, such as unsteady patient flow in the summer but overbooked appointments during the semesters. Campbell also said some students use the clinic for longer, wellness-type visits while others use it for common viruses that are quickly diagnosed. This forced the clinic to make students wait more than a day to get an appointment, especially during busy seasons like the flu outbreak last February.
Cindy Gravitt, MACCC office manager, said students were frustrated when they had an acute illness but couldn’t get an appointment at the clinic for a day or more. She said 14 students have used the Wildcat Care portal as of Tuesday night.
“I love that even when appointments are full, they can still access this,” Gravitt said. “That’s an outstanding, unparalleled service that no other university is providing.”
Gravitt also said telemedicine allows students to stay home and keep from spreading their illness or contracting another illness. The clinic did a few tests of the Wildcat Care portal in December, and Gravitt said the questionnaire and phone call determined the illnesses pretty well.
“Patients have told us that it was convenient, easy to navigate or user-friendly,” Gravitt said.
While flu season seems to be hitting the Big Country, Gravitt said so far the clinic diagnosed 11 cases of influenza and one case of flu-like illness.