Students: Why Virtual Care Is Vital to Our Well-being
As a former hedge fund analyst turned doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, Claire Smith knows a thing or two about pressure.
Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith began her first semester at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health from her home near Portland, Ore., never having set foot on campus as a student.
Near the end of her first term, the converging pressures of adjusting to a rigorous graduate program, assisting with world-class COVID-19 modeling research and managing the stresses of everyday life during a global pandemic just felt like too much.
“One of my professors sent an email saying, ‘I know this is a stressful time, so make sure you are getting help or taking care of yourself,’” she said. In his email, the professor shared a link to TimelyMD, Johns Hopkins’ telehealth partner that provides all students access to free mental health counseling.
She turned to her phone and was able to quickly connect with a counselor through TimelyMD’s TalkNow service, which offers 24/7 emotional support to discuss any issue at any time. From COVID-19 concerns to general anxiety, family relationships and/or a critical situation, TalkNow immediately connects students with professionals to find the care and advice they need.
“The instant connection is the best because when you’re having a problem, you want to talk to someone now versus having to wait and losing the ability to have the space to process or letting things keep building up,” said Smith.
Caring for the Whole Student
At Middlebury College, senior environmental studies major Kate Holly can relate to Smith’s need for care and advice.
“I was just having a bad day and felt really stressed,” said Holly. “I didn’t want to wait to schedule something with my regular counselor at the counseling center, and I didn’t feel like dumping on my friends. The fact that I could use TalkNow to speak to someone then and there was really valuable.”
Since then, it’s TimelyMD’s health coaching service that Holly has continued to use. She was inspired to start health coaching because she switched her diet during the summer to become a pescatarian and wanted to make sure she supplied her body with exactly what it needed.
“What I didn’t realize about my health coach was that she has experience in all the realms of wellness,” she said. “While we started focusing on food, we also discussed how I am taking care of myself in other aspects.”
“Committing myself to practicing yoga, sleeping enough, and maintaining routines that work for me have been really helpful. We talk about what’s working and what’s not. My health coach helps me identify how confident I am about achieving my goals, and we work through barriers to those goals. She has given me the right tools I need.”
True Wraparound Care with Telehealth
For Dr. Gus Jordan, executive director of the center for health and wellness at Middlebury, seeking care is not an either/or choice between on-campus or telehealth services—it’s both/and.
See how TimelyMD positively impacts student retention and engagement at Abilene Christian University
“We offer terrific care at our health and counseling center on campus, but TimelyMD allows us to offer true wraparound care, both on campus and across the country. And because care can be accessed at no additional cost to students, with no concerns about deductibles or copays, we find students are much less hesitant to reach out for the care they need,” said Jordan.
The results speak for themselves. Middlebury has an undergraduate student population of approximately 2,500 students. During the fall 2020 semester, the school had more than 500 telehealth visits through TimelyMD, which included 99 TalkNow visits from 14 states.
At Johns Hopkins, 89% of students who used TalkNow or scheduled counseling during the fall semester said they would have done nothing to seek help if mental telehealth had not been available through TimelyMD. Sixty percent of the school’s 1,300 visits this fall were outside of Maryland.
“It helps us in reaching a broader group of students that we might not be reaching through our traditional counseling services,” Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student health and well-being at Johns Hopkins University shared with Inside Higher Ed last fall. “We have been surveying students to get a sense of their experience … I’ve been struck by the number of students who said if we didn’t have TimelyMD in place, they wouldn’t have reached out.”
Growing Demand for Mental Health Support
Administrators are right to be concerned about the urgency of the campus mental health crisis as students grapple with intersecting societal crises. According to the American Council on Education, nearly 70% of college presidents now say student mental health ranks among their top concerns (up from 53% in Oct.). A recent survey by New America/Third Way found 79% of college students were concerned about their mental health during the pandemic. One quarter of Americans ages 18-24 reported having seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days, according to the CDC. And, in the last year, more than 60% of all TimelyMD visits have been used for mental health support, versus 10% pre-pandemic.
“College and university leaders work really hard to take care of the students they serve,” said Chris Clark, chief strategy officer and co-founder, TimelyMD. “It has never been more important to break down barriers and stereotypes around telemedicine and teletherapy when the stakes are so high. TimelyMD is here to help.”
As a telehealth company focused solely on the needs of college students, TimelyMD works with each institution to develop tailored campus marketing campaigns and awareness efforts to make sure students understand and take advantage of the growing range of services their schools offer, such as on-demand medical, immediate and scheduled mental health counseling, health coaching and psychiatry.
Smith, the Johns Hopkins doctoral student, said she wishes every college student across the country had access to TimelyMD right now, when everything feels “big and heavy.”
“Being in the public health field lends itself to more openness and greater awareness of the importance of accessing behavioral health support whenever you need it,” said Smith. “It is free, easy, instant and really helpful. I will definitely use TimelyMD again the next time I need to just talk.”
Learn more about how TimelyMD can help your institution.
A $60 million investment in student well-being
Now more schools and students will get the support they need. TimelyMD recently received a $60 million investment from JMI Equity that will fuel access to virtual mental health, medical and well-being services for students. The funding will also enhance students’ virtual care experience, improve health literacy at partner schools, improve student outcomes through technological innovation, and grow its team to meet market demand.
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