Will telemedicine be the key to the future of healthcare? In order to find answers to this question, we sat down with doctors, including our very own Chief Medical...
Flexibility Fit for a College Student’s Busy Schedule
It’s no secret that college students are busy. Between class, extracurricular activities, homework, and socializing, students can barely find time to sleep. With so much going on, many students simply don’t have time to handle being sick. When they do get sick, students rarely turn to their university health centers for support, with the American College Health Association reporting that fewer than 50% of students utilize on-campus health services.
Why might this be? One reason could be that university health centers are only open during the hours students tend to be focused on schoolwork and other educational activities. The American Time Use Survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, reveals that college students are busiest between the hours of 8am to 8pm. However, as shown in the ACHA’s report, university health centers are open an average of 49 hours per week. That’s approximately 10 hours per day, which happens to coincide perfectly within the 8am to 8pm window, potentially explaining why college students can’t seem to make time to visit the doctor.
Luckily, telemedicine provides a solution equipped to work around students’ packed days. With telemedicine, students are free to squeeze in appointments between their 2pm French class and 4pm club meeting. Gone is the hassle of trekking to the health center, sitting in a waiting room full of coughing students, and missing another commitment to be seen by the doctor. Instead, students can receive on-demand care wherever they are.
Health Centers Already in Peril
Even without a pandemic spreading across the country, university health centers are notorious for their long waits for appointments and inability to effectively treat students’ ailments. An investigation conducted by the Washington Post details many students’ stories about both misdiagnosis and mistreatment from their on-campus health care providers. These mistakes have serious consequences, with dozens of students across the country ending up hospitalized as a result of their health centers’ shortcomings.
It’s no wonder that students are receiving subpar care, when, according to the Washington Post, campus health centers are not federally regulated and the majority are not even licensed on a state level. To make matters worse, university health centers are often understaffed, with the Washington Post reporting that one third of colleges do not even have a full-time physician on staff.
As students prepare to return to campus this fall, with more than 80 percent of colleges planning to conduct at least partial in-person instruction, students will need more comprehensive care than their health centers can provide. That’s where telemedicine comes in. Allowing students to seek care beyond their health centers will alleviate some of the pressure on overwhelmed health centers and ensure that students receive the necessary quality care.
The Time is Now
As previously discussed, now more than ever students need assurance that they will receive reliable care when returning to campus. As the Washington Post article highlights, college students are commonly forced to wait days or even weeks to be seen by a doctor on campus. With a contagious virus making the rounds, students won’t have time to wait around for an appointment if they become sick.
Moreover, with this virus spreading so easily, it is crucial for students to limit interactions with others as much as possible. A typical trip to the health center involves contact with multiple nurses and doctors, as well as other patients in the waiting room. The additional risk of contagion may cause students with minor illnesses to choose to skip the trip to the health center altogether.
Telemedicine, however, will allow students to receive immediate care and avoid unnecessary contact with others. Each averted interaction has the potential to save lives and keep the school and surrounding community both safer and healthier.