Telemedicine for College Students
Telemedicine, or telehealth, connects a patient with a US board-certified physician for appointments and advice via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Offering telemedicine for college students provides them with a nearly instant means of reaching out, which can be the deciding factor between students getting treatment or suffering alone.
College students struggle to balance their classes, homework assignments, fitness routines, social calendars, and exams. Often, making time for routine check-ups, mental health appointments, or asking a doctor about, say, a nagging cough that has persisted for weeks is simply one too many responsibilities, so a student will neglect their health.
While most of us think of college students as being in their physical prime, especially as compared to an elderly or pediatric patient demographic, there are ways in which college students need medical care more than other segments of the population. In this article, we’ll cover four primary services telehealth can provide to a busy college student.
1. Mental Health Services
According to the American Psychological Association, about one-third of college students in the United States struggled with their daily functioning due to depression, and almost half said that they experienced overwhelming anxiety in the previous year (2013 National College Health Assessment).
With rates of mental health struggles like these, it’s essential that college students have access to mental health services in a timely manner and during hours that they are able to attend appointments. Despite the obvious need for increased access, there are many rural or medically underserved colleges where students languish without resources, especially if they come from families of modest means.
Responding to the needs of their student body, Colorado State University, Fort Collins launched a program that provides students with a telemedicine portal that connects students to both crisis and mental health resources virtually and on-campus. The university made the decision to create the telemedicine program after they lost eight of their 33,000 students to suicide in a single year. While it’s too soon to know what the impact on the student body will be, the university is hopeful that this program serves as a permanent lifeline for students in crisis.
2. Sports Medicine
When college athletes are injured on the field, especially when they have suffered a concussion, it can be essential that the athlete be evaluated by a specialist. Should a school not have immediate access to a specialist, telemedicine can be ideal for allowing neurologists (in the case of concussions) to detect and diagnose an injury sooner, which allows the athlete to begin the appropriate treatment plan sooner.
3. Nutrition Services
Most college students are responsible for their own nutrition for the first time when they’re away at college. Whether their parents set them up with healthy eating habits or an excellent working knowledge of every fast food menu in town, it’s optimal for students to nourish their bodies with a well-balanced diet that provides roughly the correct amount of energy for their needs.
Unfortunately, the stress of college life and the easy access to junk food can leave some students heavier, more anxious, and feeling even less confident about their food choices.
Rather than turning to Instagram and Reddit for sketchy dietary advice, students can use telemedicine services to connect with a Registered Dietician. An RD will work with the student’s individual preferences, lifestyle, and budgetary capacity to help create the diet that’s best for them.
With programs that will allow students to receive encouraging texts, check in via photos of meals, and chart their healthy progression, students are much more likely to create habits that can help sustain them in health and balance throughout their lives.
4. Non-emergency Medical Care
Let’s say you’re a college student with a terrible earache, or a fever and a cough. It’s 3 a.m. on Saturday night, and the campus medical office is closed. You don’t have a car. Do you Uber to the hospital to the urgent care clinic?
You could, but if you have access to a telemedicine app, you can be connected with a doctor almost instantly right there in your dorm room. You don’t even have to get out of bed. You’ll get great medical care, you won’t have to worry your mom, and you can have your prescription called in to a drugstore near you.
While these areas demonstrate large portions of the student body that could be served by telemedicine, there are a myriad of ways that students can benefit by this exciting technology. We predict that telemedicine on college campuses is a trend that won’t be going anywhere unless it is replaced by even more connected technology.