Benefits of Telehealth for Colleges and Universities
One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 in the healthcare world is the massive acceleration of the adoption of telemedicine. The heavy waves of Coronavirus patients, overflowing ICUs, and overworked healthcare staff, combined with massive lockdowns, resulted in reduced patient access to in-person healthcare for non-Coronavirus related health issues. By taking the burden off crowded ERs and urgent care clinics, telehealth apps - like SwiftMD - have proven to be a powerful tool for effectively addressing both the physical and the mental healthcare needs of the general population during a pandemic.
One population segment that has reaped some of the biggest benefits from the increased adoption of telehealth services is college students.
The pandemic had a particularly disruptive effect on our education system due to the suspension of in-person classes resulting in long-term "learning loss" and a lack of mental health support for students having a difficult time coping.
Telemedicine service providers, like SwiftMD, were best positioned to address the particular healthcare needs of the student population.
Benefits of Telehealth for College Students
Below, we’ve outlined some of the biggest benefits that telehealth provides for college students.
Increased access to healthcare
Telemedicine enables virtual health care at any time from anywhere and, depending on the telehealth app, through a variety of communication channels. From texting to chatbots, video conferencing to emails, telehealth providers offer students 24/7 access to the physical and mental healthcare they need, via their preferred communication method.
24/7 health care, at short notice
Telehealth platforms like SwiftMD feature 24/7 access to a large list of health practitioners who are often available on short notice. With SwiftMD, there are no long, complicated forms or online questionnaires for students to fill out. And, with an average healthcare professional callback time of only 7 minutes, the student has near-instantaneous access to the care they need.
Elimination of travel time (and travel expenses!)
College students usually have very full days, with limited flexibility in their schedules for in-person doctor appointments. Telehealth eliminates the travel time needed for students to access their preferred physicians or nearest urgent care clinic. With telemedicine apps, students no longer need to worry about missing classes or losing study time. Telehealth has been a particularly huge blessing to students living in rural areas, many miles away from the nearest doctor or counselor, as well as students with mobility issues.
And, with travel comes travel expenses (gas, car rental, tolls, parking fees, etc.) and many students face significant financial limitations that restrict their access to an effective means of transportation to their healthcare provider. Telehealth apps enable students to seek care from the comfort of their dorm room.
More privacy, less stigma
Another important deterrent that telehealth reduces for college students is the perceived stigma surrounding certain common-yet-stigmatized health issues among the student population, such as STDs, UTIs, and pink eye, as well as mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.
Young patients may be more comfortable meeting with a healthcare provider from the comfort and privacy of their homes or dorm rooms. Rural college students in particular may feel nervous about going to seek a psychologist or psychiatrist out of fear that someone they know may see them. With telehealth, students benefit from the anonymity that comes with accessing behavioral health services from your preferred device in your preferred location.
A cost-effective healthcare solution
Aside from cutting down on travel expenses, telehealth appointments are often more affordable for students than in-person medical appointments. Visits to the ER and urgent care are often an unnecessary solution for the common health conditions affecting students today (like the common cold or flu, acute respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, rashes, and other low acuity conditions). A trip to an urgent care center also comes at an exorbitantly high cost for students who are already severely saddled with tuition fees and student loans.
Student financial aid statistics indicate that 83.8% of college students are on some form of financial aid. Telemedicine services tend to have low copays or, in some cases, none at all. Students may even have access to subsidies and other types of funding to cover some of their healthcare costs.
Furthermore, some telehealth companies - like SwiftMD - offer healthcare coverage that also extends to the student’s dependents. With an average age of 27 and one out of four students having dependent children, community college students are more likely to seek out healthcare coverage than undergraduates of four-year institutions.
Benefits of Telehealth for College Presidents
Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the increased adoption of telehealth on campuses. College and university Presidents also enjoy numerous advantages by offering their students access to a telemedicine service provider.
Below, we’ve listed some of the primary benefits telehealth offers college Presidents.
Telehealth: a student recruitment tool
Young adults of the digital revolution are debating, now more than ever, whether it’s worth enrolling in college or whether they should just go get a job. According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), public community colleges and four-year institutions saw a combined drop of more than 604,000 students - which translates to a 5% decline - in spring 2022 compared to spring 2021.
In addition to the drop in enrollment, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on everyone’s physical and mental well-being, colleges are increasingly promoting affordable telehealth services as an enrollment incentive for young adults - many of whom may already have spouses and children as we mentioned above.
SwiftMD’s college and university partners are actively using our affordable, physical and mental health telemedicine services as a strategic recruitment tool to increase enrollment.
Patient volume management
The Coronavirus is still causing a lot of students to clog student health phone lines and care centers with questions like: Can I go to class with a runny nose? Or My roommate has Covid, when should I get tested?
Telehealth has succeeded in sharply decreasing the bandwidth required of on-campus student health centers who are still struggling to keep up with the sudden increases in appointments and walk-ins.
By off-loading healthcare services from student health centers to a telehealth company like SwiftMD, colleges can reduce their healthcare expenses, decrease the likelihood of student health professionals quitting over burnout, and improve their student’s physical and mental well-being which leads to improved student outcomes.
Increased student retention
Numerous studies have shown that poor health (especially mental health) is one of the leading causes of students dropping out of college. With college students in the midst of a full-blown mental health crisis (more on that below), now is the time for college administrators to offer the full suite of healthcare services to students - from treating and monitoring common or chronic illnesses, to providing behavioral health help for students struggling with mental health problems.
The Mental Health Crisis on College Campuses
A recent survey by the American Council on Education (ACE) revealed that nearly 70 percent of college and university presidents identified student mental health as among their most pressing issues, compared to 53 percent in the last survey.
Indeed, the mental health of college students has reportedly been on a steady decline with a whopping 135% increase in depression and 110% increase in anxiety from 2013 to 2021 according to a recent survey by the Healthy Minds Network. As of 2018, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide was the second most common cause of death among college students.
A recent Fortune survey of 1,000 college students found that a whopping 60% reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition by a professional, the most common of which being anxiety and depression.
And yet, on-campus or even virtual student health centers are notoriously understaffed and under-resourced. Small colleges with less than 1,500 students typically have the equivalent of about three mental health counselors on staff, while schools with over 45,000 students have closer to 29 on average. Among the students surveyed by Fortune, 58% reported being put on some type of wait list at their college's counseling services with only one in five students being seen within a week of their appointment request.
Fortunately, telehealth platforms such as SwiftMD provide an immediate turnkey solution for colleges and universities seeking to alleviate the mental health crisis affecting their student population. With our easy-to-use telehealth app, students can access quality mental health counselors at their fingertips. A counselor will always be available to respond to a distressed student and advise them within the comfort and privacy of their dorm rooms.
SwiftMD: Holistic Healthcare for College Students
At SwiftMD, we understand that proper healthcare requires a holistic approach. That’s why our telehealth app offers college students 24/7 access to US-trained and board-certified physicians as well mental health counselors who can address the most common behavioral health problems plaguing students today.
While most behavioral health telehealth companies provide standalone, mental health-only programs, SwiftMD’s healthcare professionals treat both the standard clinical issues, as well as the stress, trauma, anxiety and depression issues that have had an increasingly negative impact on student retention and results.
Boasting the highest utilization rate in the telehealth industry, with over 50% utilization by subscribers on average over the last four years (compared to an industry average of just over 8%!), SwiftMD is widely lauded for the high quality of services provided to a variety of industries including colleges and universities, K-12 education (we’re active in 150+ school districts in the state of Pennsylvania), unions, municipalities, government organizations, and self-insured companies.
In November 2021, we formed a partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and are working closely with them to create a unique offering to their members.
Our telehealth services have proven to be a great model for demonstrating the benefits of telemedicine in college and university students, as well as the institutions providing these services.
Want more information? Contact us!