ECAPS expedites appointment process

by Annika Hom / Beacon Correspondent • February 8, 2017

Courtesy of Elise Harrison
Courtesy of Elise Harrison

Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services created a system of “triage appointments” this semester in effort to offer appointments faster for students who need it most.

Triage appointments indicate a degree of urgency, so students can express the need for immediate care.

ECAPS implemented the change after receiving numerous complaints about how long it took for students to get appointments. The number of students requesting counseling services increased 23 percent this year compared to last, meaning it can now take a few weeks for a student to receive their first appointment, said Elise Harrison, director of ECAPS.

Harrison said she did not want students who needed urgent help, like someone with suicidal thoughts, to wait weeks before meeting with a clinician. As a solution, Harrison said ECAPS decided to create triage appointments this semester, which prioritize students’ appointments if they needed immediate care.

Harrison said students also raised concerns about Emerson counseling's off-campus services.

The first problem, Harrison said, is that it takes a long time for students to receive referrals. Harrison said ECAPS sends emails to practicing therapists each semester, and staff consider factors such as insurance, availability, and location when referring students. She said councilors usually refer three therapists to each student in case one of them becomes unavailable.

Since all of the information must be browsed manually by the staff, students can wait up to two weeks before receiving referrals, Harrison said. After they are referred to off-campus services, students receive a follow-up email from therapists and ECAPS about whether they found care elsewhere, Harrison said.

Students complained in the office’s satisfaction survey last semester that the referred therapists were unable to take new clients, Harrison said.

Last fall, Harrison requested that Emerson’s Information of Technology staff create a more efficient database in order to speed up and organize the referral process.

Robert Parks, senior software application developer, said this new K2 software will make it easier for ECAPS staff to find therapists faster.

Previously, if a student wanted to find a psychiatrist near a specific location, ECAPS staff would need to search manually through each address. Parks said he decided to organize addresses by area in the new database, so ECAPS staff could filter psychiatrists by zip code, speeding up the process.

This software can also filter therapists by a variety of other factors, including type of insurance or type of practitioner, Parks said.

IT staff are focusing on implementing the software and are being trained on its use. Parks said he hopes it will be ready for ECAPS by the end of the semester.

“We’re constantly working to make sure students are not left without services,” Harrison said.