mHealth Goes to College

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Living away from home, not exactly pursuing the healthiest of lifestyles, and faced with busy schedules, college students could benefit greatly from mobile access to a healthcare provider.

Recent statistics back that premise. According to the American College Health Association Spring '12 Survey, half of all college students get sick at least once a year, and 22 percent of them end up dropping a class, stopping work on a major research project or receiving a lower grade because of that illness. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control, half of the 20 million case of sexually transmitted disease reported each year occur in young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, with estimates ranging as high as 25 percent of all college-age students infected.

A pair of recently announced partnerships are pushing telehealth as a means of connecting college students with round-the-clock healthcare services via their desktop, laptop or mobile device.

American Well, one of the larger players in the telehealth space, is joining forces with CampusMD to provide telehealth services to college students across the country for a monthly subscription of $18. CampusMD, the Bethesda, Md.-based provider of round-the-clock healthcare access to the higher education market, will use American Well's telehealth platform to enable students to log on to a portal at any time, through any mobile device.

Via that portal, students can read profiles and ratings of local physicians, select an appropriate healthcare provider and connect by video feed for information, diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions.

“Students often don’t get the care they need for many reasons: There may be no health center on campus, the options for when it's closed may be limited, or students procrastinate,” said Larry Moneta, vice president for Student Affairs at Duke University and a CampusMD board member, in an October press release announcing the partnership. “With access to a physician from any device, illnesses can be caught early and students can get back to class.”

These projects couldn’t be more timely. By 2014 the Affordable Care Act will mandate more extensive healthcare services at colleges – forcing many colleges and universities to question whether they can provide healthcare services any longer.

“Many colleges are getting out of the business of providing student healthcare,” said Moneta. “It just doesn’t make financial sense anymore.”

“The gap in students’ access to healthcare is widening," added Roy Schoenberg, CEO of Boston-based American Well, in the press release.

Meanwhile, TruClinic, a Salt Lake City-based provider of telehealth services, has announced that its TruClinic Portal will be deployed by the Utah Valley University College of Humanities & Social Services (CHSS) to help non-traditional students gain instant access via video to counseling services. The portal would enable students and counselors to have face-to-face meetings using laptops, desktop computers or mobile devices.

“We have always known that TruClinic would have applications outside of the traditional healthcare space," said company CEO and founder Justin Kahn in a press release. "Our plan was to start in our backyard. With the help of the UVU, TruClinic was able to test the idea of bringing online video counseling to college campuses.”

With more than 33,000 students enrolled, UVU is the largest university in Utah. Almost 4,700 of those students are majoring in CHSS programs, officials said. With funding from UVU's Grants for Engaged Learning Department, TruClinic and CHSS surveyed both students and counselors to see if they'd support a telehealth program, and saw positive results.

“Timely and accessible advising has a major impact on student success," added David Yells, the college's dean, in the statement. "For many of our students, an extra trip to campus for advising purposes can present an obstacle. We hope that TruClinic can provide some needed relief."