The Cal Poly Health Center launched the new Mustang Health Portal on Sept. 1, which will allow students to receive secure messages, make appointments and fill out health history forms online to avoid filling the forms out when going in for an appointment.
The portal is the result of a $3,000 software update the Health Center has been looking into for the last 18 months.
During last year’s discussion with the Student Health Advisory Council, students said the functionality of the portal would make the Health Center more accessible.
The leaders of the Health Center agreed with this and want to make the visit to the Health Center as harmless as possible.
“Being sick is lousy. No one likes to wait in a line when they are sick,” Dr. David Harris, Head of Medical Services, said.
The Mustang Health Portal is not currently linked with the My Cal Poly portal, because after polling students last year, it was found that some students’ parents have access to their portals.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) student medical records are included in educational records, which are protected under this act. Once a student turns 18, all of his or her educational records become protected by FERPA. This protection includes from the students parents or guardians, unless the student has signed a records release form.
The biggest downfall of the Health Center’s previous alert system was the “loop of sometimes endless phone tag,” Harris said.
Due to FERPA and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Health Center officials are prevented from leaving any information on a student’s voicemail. This is because it cannot be guaranteed that the student is the only one who has access to their voicemail. The result is a generally inefficient mode of communication in which it could eventually take days to connect.
The new system eliminates the first round of phone calls and makes the communication more direct.
Biomedical engineering freshman Emily Falkenstein received test results through the portal earlier this week.
“It wasn’t working at first but a couple of days later it did … and it was really convenient,” Falkenstein said.
To use the new system, students must register on the Mustang Health Portal, using their Employee ID numbers and their official Cal Poly e-mail addresses. After entering this information, students will receive an e-mail with a temporary password to initially log on to the portal. This can be changed later within the portal.
In the event that a student needs to be contacted by Health Center officials, a non-descript e-mail will alert the student of a message waiting for them on the portal. The student must log in to access the message from the Health Center officials.
For now, the messaging is only one-way and cannot be replied to. There is the capability to change the system to have two-way messaging. However, for the time being it will remain one way to work out the kinks.
The biggest concern for the new system is the unchecked messages. Through the portal, the Health Center is able to monitor whether the message has been checked or not. This enables them to act accordingly if the patient has not checked their message, whether this means sending a follow-up e-mail alerting the student of the message or making a phone call.
There are two full-time IT staff members working at the Health Center to fix any problems. So far they have come across a possible problem when the program is used on the Safari browser on a Macintosh computer. They are looking into this glitch further. They also work to ensure the security of the system. Harris referred to them as the “quintessential skeptics.”
Along with the IT staff, the security is protected by housing all of the records from the Health Center in the computer center of school where they use mirror servers. Mirror servers are used as basically an identical copy of all of the information on one server to be on a second server in case of technical difficulties. There is also an off-site server farm with all of Cal Poly’s records in the event that all of the records on campus were lost.
Although the new portal will cut out some of the unnecessary steps from before, Director of Health and Counseling Services, Dr. Martin Bragg said, “It isn’t an issue of efficiency. It will change the way we do business … Medicine everywhere will be changing.”