Student Health Service launches after-hours hotline

Students seeking help from the Student Health Service after the office’s regular business hours can now utilize an after-hours hotline for medical advice, potentially helping students avoid costly trips to the emergency room.

Health care call center Fonemed began serving GW Monday, with nurses on hand to take students’ medical history, answer questions and advise students to go to the emergency room, follow-up with SHS or treat themselves with at-home remedies.

“We believe Fonemed’s services will offer an efficient system after hours that complements the services GW already offers during normal business hours,” SHS Medical Director Dr. Isabel Goldenberg said.

Students can call the after-hours hotline for medical advice, including alcohol-related incidents such as assessing whether a friend should be taken to the hospital. All calls remain confidential and SHS will conduct follow-ups on all calls the next business day.

Students will not be able to make SHS appointments during after-hours phone calls, Goldenberg said.

Calls will be answered by a Fonemed administrative staff member and will be transferred to a registered nurse based on the nature of the call. If all RNs are busy, students can expect a call back within 15 minutes or less, Goldenberg said.

Fonemed’s hotline nurses are located throughout the U.S. and work from home, Fonemed Creative Director Amanda Larson said. Larson added that Fonemed’s nurses have an average of 10 years experience at a hospital as nurses.

Goldenberg said Fonemed was one of several service care providers considered for the after-hours hotline, but was ultimately chosen for its “well-known medical phone protocols and… large staff.”

The company serves more than 100,000 students at more than 20 schools nationwide, including American University.

The service carries around a $20 charge per call, but the University will foot the bill, rather than make students pay.

“I think people would definitely utilize it,” sophomore Danny Rice said. “I’ve had friends in situations where they didn’t know what to do, and making a trek to the hospital is a commitment.”

Sophomore Sharon Pae said using the hotline for alcohol-related incidents could help “avoid the chaos of EMeRG.”

A trip to the ER at GW Hospital can range between $300 to more than $3,000, depending on the nature of the injury or illness.

Goldenberg said SHS expects the service to be well used, especially during midterms and finals, when they see an influx of students.

“The program follows the same after-hours model implemented a few years ago in our counseling center, which has been well received,” she said. “This will help individual students to make an informed decision about what type of medical care they need.”

But Ilana Stein, a junior, said she would be skeptical about using the call-in service.

“Considering it’s a nurse and not a physician, they’re not the superior ones to go to on most cases,” Stein said.

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