Keep students in the loop with testing results

Isabelle Costello

As a freshman attending college amidst a pandemic, UT’s proactive community testing service provides me weekly peace of mind. Even without symptoms or known exposure, the negative confirmation from University Health Services eases a bit of the anxiety that comes with living on campus right now.

After my first test back in August, the UHS worker administering the test told me to wait for a call telling me  I was positive, and if I heard nothing, to assume I was safe –– no news was good news. 

After settling into this routine of waiting, I was informed by a fellow student that UHS had started uploading our results in the student UHS portal, so I could verify I hadn’t missed a call and validate the negative result. After a few more weeks, the employee administering my test gave me a business card explaining this same process.

By October, I figured I was an expert on proactive community testing. I was planning on going home one weekend, so I took my test, waited for the negative lab result on my portal and assumed I was safe to see my family. Imagine my panic when I received an urgent message from my UHS healthcare provider the next day in my email inbox. I assumed the worst, but the issue wasn’t in my results; I was still negative.

UHS’s frustrating habit of changing the way results are given to PCT participants without informing them of said change adds unnecessary stress to an already nerve-wracking situation. UHS needs to clarify the mode PCT results are delivered to students and clearly inform students if the mode is going to change.

Since the introduction of proactive community testing for COVID-19, the method of delivering results to students has shifted from a phone call if positive, then lab results in the UHS portal and now a secure message. 

“This is basically a result of the #youshare,wecare, because we’re listening to everyone and making sure that everyone has their results in a timely manner,” said Neeta Bhakta, UHS assistant director for ancillary services. 

While changing the system to better fit student feedback is a good idea in theory, shifting the method of results delivery to a more aggressive notification without updating participants has only served to stress students out. The new notification is often assumed to be an indication of a positive result. 

Plan II and social work junior Lori Woo has taken about six PCT tests since the start of the semester. 

“They didn’t tell us they would send a secure note,” Woo said. “I received that last Friday after my most recent test on the 15th, and that one took me by surprise. I was anxious because I had taken several tests before that and never received a secure note.” 

Woo said she would prefer going to her UHS portal to check her results. If UHS is going to notify her, the notification should say there’s an update to her portal, not an urgent notice, if there is no need for her to worry.

Living on campus during a global pandemic is stressful, and the responsibility of repeated medical testing is already challenging. The inconsistent delivery of COVID-19 test results does little to ease the tension students face. 

UHS must stick to one mode of test result delivery: a UHS portal update and a standardized notification. Student life right now is hectic enough –– keep us in the loop and remove one more factor of change.

Costello is a neuroscience freshman from Boerne, TX.