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Your academic institution is unlike any other: unique from other institutions in its mission, vision, campus culture, and community. How you support the mental and physical well-being of your students is unique as well, which is why your virtual care platform needs to seamlessly integrate within your IT ecosystem, delivering high-quality care without compromising usability and security.
Over 90% of college students use the internet every day. Nearly 9 out of 10 students used a virtual solution for digital health care during the pandemic. Today, 8 out of 10 students expect colleges and universities to provide virtual health care options. It’s essential to understand how the needs of your students align with what a virtual care platform can provide, ensuring the solution you’ve chosen will deliver positive outcomes.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating a virtual care solution.
What do students think about virtual health care?
Studies show that students view telehealth services as a convenient and flexible alternative to in-person healthcare. College students found electronic support to be consistently available at their convenience without concern for coordinating schedules, waitlists, or traveling to a clinic. Students who choose virtual care also have the benefit of avoiding costs for transportation, childcare, or missed work that they would incur from attending an in-person visit.
College students consistently register satisfaction with the usability of telehealth services. In fact, students report the convenience, acceptability, and usability of mobile phone apps for mental health interventions – including those for mindfulness, drinking cessation, depression, health problems, and anxiety – contribute to higher levels of mental well-being.
Student respondents across a variety of cross-sectional studies consistently describe a high level of satisfaction with telehealth services, including automated messaging platforms and self-directed therapy platforms. Telehealth services offer opportunities for college students to avoid the stigma of seeking mental health treatment. This is an obstacle, particularly for minority students, who are less likely than white students to utilize mental health services from primary care professionals despite experiencing similar or elevated rates of markers of mental illness such as suicidality, a suicide attempt, or self-harm.
Telehealth services provide college students with a sense of ownership over their psychological struggles. Survey results confirm that higher education students feel a sense of control over the pace of the intervention and appreciate the casual nature in which they can receive help virtually compared to receiving in-person help at a counseling center.
The benefits of telehealth are clear to students: It’s fast, easy, and efficient. It eliminates wait times, reduces the stigma of seeking mental health and medical care, and, perhaps most importantly, is available the moment a student needs care. When students don’t have to wait days or weeks for a counseling center appointment, there’s a positive effect on campus health and wellness.
In turn, this allows campus counseling centers to focus on the most critical patients, helps manage demand for in-person services, and supports campus health resources that are often overworked. Virtual care services are key to transforming campus health services and offering a hybrid model of care, offering students the best of in-person and virtual care. This model enables students to get the care they need, when they need it, with virtual care providers collaborating with campus resources to provide continuity of care and referrals for students that need in-person support.
Why does your college or university need virtual healthcare?
The results of an American Council on Education’s (ACE) Pulse Point Survey of 268 college and university presidents show higher education leaders are increasingly concerned about the mental health of their students. Nearly 70% of presidents identified student mental health as their most pressing issue compared to 53% in the previous survey.
The impact of mental health on student retention is clear. A recent survey by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation reported that 76% of four-year undergraduate students who considered dropping out in the past six months said it was due to emotional stress while 63% of associate degree students considered doing the same. This emphasizes the need for mental health resources that can meet students where they are and makes virtual care more crucial than ever for colleges and universities.
At TimelyMD, we see that nationally, 75% of students who sought support through TimelyCare reported mental health improvements, and 60% of those using our mental health service lines said they would have done nothing if TimelyCare wasn’t available. Virtual care can help fill gaps in care, complementing campus health resources with high-quality support and engaging students who may otherwise have not sought care.
To support the mental health and well-being of their campus communities, nearly 6 out of 10 college presidents report that their institutions have invested in virtual or teletherapy services. Here are a few examples of why colleges and universities use telehealth technology to support student mental health and well-being to complement campus resources:
1. Keep students in class
The ongoing mental health crisis is likely to cause student retention and engagement to decline at colleges and universities. According to a Healthy Minds survey, students struggling with mental health are twice as likely to drop out. A holistic virtual solution helps schools create a culture of care. In other words, healthy students are more engaged and able to meet their academic goals. That’s good for them — and drives campus success and retention. That’s why student mental health continues to be a high priority in higher education.
2. Meet the demand for care
Virtual health care services accommodate surges in patient volume and enable health centers to handle an influx of patients by remotely accessing an expanded network of licensed, board-certified physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, as well as licensed counselors and behavioral health specialists. If a student requires in-person care for healthcare needs, the virtual health provider can give a referral to the appropriate clinical care or resource based on the institution’s protocols. (Read more about access to care and its impact on students.)
3. Optimize campus health services
As budgets get tighter in higher education, telemedicine is one strategy that can help decision-makers effectively allocate resources. Telehealth provides efficient, cost-effective outpatient services that optimize existing healthcare resources to provide care for students when and where they need it. It’s no surprise that so many colleges and universities continue to choose telehealth to help complement existing campus health services.
4. Drive student engagement
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of young adults who dropped out of college did so due to mental illness. Data also confirms that counseling services have a positive impact on retention. As measured by student self-reporting, 63% of students who received counseling said these services helped them stay in school. Higher education must prioritize student mental health. If they don’t, schools risk decreasing graduation rates, enrollment, and academic success. If you’re looking for ideas for student engagement, TimelyMD’s Gen Ztressed webinar explores ways to improve engagement and retention by better supporting student well-being.
5. Support faculty and staff
Faculty and staff members play an important role in creating learning environments that support student health and well-being, decrease anxiety, increase learning, and encourage help-seeking behavior. When they observe students in crisis, faculty, staff, and other campus personnel can access guidance and advice through a virtual healthcare platform. And when they’re concerned about a student’s well-being, failing grades, or declining engagement, they can collaborate in real time with mental health providers to develop a strategy for student connectivity to support services.
Support students when they need it most
What services can virtual healthcare provide?
A student-centered virtual platform will offer on-demand mental health and medical care, with access to a diverse, culturally competent network of healthcare providers and clinicians. To give students the options they need, a virtual care platform should also offer students different modalities of care, such as phone, chat, and video visits. Here are examples of the services from which you can choose:
Talk Therapy/Crisis Support
Unlimited, on-demand, 24/7 mental and emotional support, health literacy guidance, and crisis management.
Appointments with a licensed provider of their choice at times that work for them.
Advanced mental health care delivered through virtual visits, with treatments for non-controlled substances.
On-Demand Medical Care
Unlimited, 24/7, on-demand urgent and low-acuity urgent care throughout the U.S. helps decrease ER visits and avoid costly medical bills for students.
Scheduled Medical Care
Appointments that enable students to seek treatment for common issues including upper respiratory issues, allergies, cold and flu symptoms, and dermatology.
Care coordinators that can help students navigate the healthcare system and make the right care decisions, both before and after meeting with a provider.
Personal health coaching for students that can support lifestyle changes, healthy habits, and the transition from home to campus life.
On-demand, self-care content designed to foster a sense of serenity in students, including yoga, meditation, and conversations on topics from healthy relationships to the importance of rest.
Basic Needs Support
Services designed to connect students with free or reduced-cost programs that support in-person health care, food assistance, housing assistance, transit support, paying bills, child care, and legal resources.
Faculty and Staff Support
A connection for faculty and staff to reach a care team that provides guidance and support for students in distress.
A 24/7, inclusive, and positive support system for students to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a forum that lets them know they’re not alone in their health and wellness journey.
How should virtual health care integrate with my campus?
A virtual care platform should seamlessly integrate with your existing healthcare resources to customize a health and well-being solution for your students. It should accomplish the following:
- Support continuity of care by integrating with existing campus health resources. For example, Electronic Health Record (EHR) integration provides continuity of care by using information technology to share health information, data, and virtual visit medical records back to campus, which decreases the amount of time needed to find and utilize student health history, vaccinations, patient care plans, and lab reports to improve workflow, follow-up, and health care delivery.
- Develop additional on-ramps to quality care for students in the places they already frequent, such as the school’s learning management system (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard).
- Easily connect to an ecosystem of support through student care organizations. For example, if your campus partners with organizations such as The JED Foundation (JED) or Active Minds, it’s essential that your virtual healthcare system complement the support and resources provided by those organizations.
What kind of partnership does an effective virtual healthcare solution provide?
The virtual healthcare platform you choose should be as invested in the health and well-being of your students as you are. It should provide solutions that match your institution’s unique needs — not a one-size-fits-all approach. It should support campus awareness through ongoing marketing efforts, provide 24/7 customer support for technical issues, and ensure quality assurance and ongoing patient satisfaction metrics to continuously improve student care.
As you evaluate platforms, download our Virtual Health Care Buying Guide for Higher Education to make sure you’re asking the questions that enable your school to extend the reach of campus health resources in a way that improves student health and well-being. As you consider your institution’s student engagement and retention rates, make sure your virtual health care platform supports those goals.
Having worked with stakeholders at over 250 colleges and universities and supporting over 1.5 million students across the country, TimelyMD understands the healthcare challenges your college or university faces. We continue to learn from our partnerships, and our team applies that knowledge to our HIPAA-compliant, high-quality virtual health and well-being solution for students.
Contact TimelyMD to explore how a customized telehealth and virtual care strategy can enhance your campus health resources.