Bishop Wellness Center recently unveiled 98point6, a free app available to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) that allows students to connect with primary care providers and receive free mobile healthcare and health-related advising over the phone. Those who have been on campus long enough may recall that in 2017, Bishop Wellness Center nearly ceased to offer physical healthcare services to the Willamette community. Since then, Bishop has made several changes in order to provide healthcare in effective, accessible and cost-efficient ways. One such change is the introduction of 98point6.
Don Thomson is the director of Bishop Wellness Center. He was instrumental to bringing the 98point6 app to the College of Liberal Arts. Photo: Montana Hunter.
98point6 is a Seattle-based company that virtually connects its users with primary healthcare providers. The program uses both artificial intelligence and real doctors to diagnose certain ailments or illnesses and, if necessary, to prescribe users with medication. After having downloaded the free 98point6 app, users can communicate with doctors via written messages, as well as photographs and video chat if needed. Doctors on the app may diagnose and provide assistance with a variety of ailments, including colds, the flu, dermatology issues, gastrointestinal issues, UTIs and more.
98point6’s physicians are board-certified and the service is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, so students’ information will remain confidential. If a doctor chooses to prescribe medication, they send the prescription to the user’s preferred pharmacy. Pharmacists, not 98point6 employees, work with the user and their health insurance provider to pay for the medication.
“It’s sort of the wave of the future for medicine,” said Don Thomson, Director of Bishop Wellness Center.
The service was brought to Bishop as a way to improve the wellness center’s accessibility to students, Thomson said. “It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to get sick between eight and five, Monday through Friday,” he said, referencing Bishop’s hours. Now, students can “talk to a live doctor in the moment, sitting in the residence hall, sitting in the library, wherever. You can get healthcare that way.”
98point6 is free to all Willamette College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students who are 18 or older. As of now, the service is not available to graduate students or other members of the WU community. According to Thomson, Willamette is one of the first universities to use the service, which allows it to be free to undergraduate students now and in the future.
When asked if he anticipates 98point6 will be introduced to those other than CLA students, Thomson said it could be in upcoming years. “If it’s highly utilized and in demand, I think that’s a conversation we’re going to have. It’s a budget issue, of course.”
Should the program be offered to a wider Willamette audience, the University will have to find a way to pay for it. Thomson said that the Bishop Advisory Committee, which students may apply to join, is the group that makes these kinds of decisions.
Until recently, 98point6 primarily served private businesses, not universities. When asked what prompted the company to venture onto college campuses like Willamette’s, Robbie Cape, 98point6’s CEO and co-founder, said, “98point6’s mission is to deliver quality primary care to every human on earth without requiring a financial trade-off.”
Cape emphasized that 98point6 aims to improve students’ ability to access healthcare. “Far too many college-aged consumers don’t have a relationship with primary care today due to a variety of factors, whether it be time, cost or accessibility. 98point6 removes those barriers by meeting students where they are.”
Dr. Brad Younggren, 98point6’s chief medical officer, noted that college students often avoid seeking healthcare until symptoms become unmanageable, and cited that half of millennials report they do not have their own primary care physician.
Younggren said, “If we’re able to give university students a convenient way to be more proactive about their care or health concerns, we’re going to see better outcomes over time.”
When it comes to 98point6’s future at Willamette, Thomson said success depends on how much students utilize the program. “Is it something that’s heavily utilized, is it something that’s helping, keeping students healthy and engaged in class? That, to me, is the measure of success.”