Young adults are attending college in growing numbers, creating new challenges for students, families and the institutions themselves. According to the National Center for Education statistics, 20.5 million students enrolled in an American college or university in fall 2016, and 5.2 million more individuals sought higher education compared to 2000.
One of the chief concerns for colleges and universities is offering accessible, meaningful healthcare services. Often, college represents the first time a young person is in charge of his or her own health, and living away from home can mean new barriers and responsibilities. Logistically, many students receive treatment outside of a family provider network, and similarly, college-aged individuals may not be as proactive or capable when it comes to addressing their own health needs.
By making use of the latest health IT solutions, higher education institutions can better connect students with their internal healthcare services. Mobile technologies in particular hold strong promise, especially because younger adults are already so familiar with these devices. Here are some of the challenges facing student health and the role mobile can play in addressing these concerns:
What are the specific challenges?
Two-year colleges and public universities have a larger proportion of in-state students, who may find it easier to travel to a family physician when they have an issue or feel sick. Private institutions enroll a higher proportion of out-of-state individuals, however, and may therefore treat more students using on-campus facilities.
Crowded dorm rooms and unhealthy lifestyles can make students particularly vulnerable. Aside from the seasonal flu and other illnesses that come from close quarters, there are issues related to physical and sexual assault, as well as the introduction of drugs and drinking. In fact, the National Institutes of Health found 1 in 5 students qualifies for Alcohol Use Disorder. Depression and other forms of mental health concerns are also prevalent among young adults living away from home for the first time.
Colleges and universities have resources available for alleviating or preventing these issues, but students may not be equipped to make use of offered services. Young adults may have never booked their own appointment before, and understanding billing and insurance can be even more difficult. These factors may discourage young adults from seeking care. As the Stanford Social Innovation Review found, cost is another considerable barrier. Students and recent graduates are not visiting the doctor because of financial concerns, even when insurance reduces expenses.
How can mobile devices make a difference?
One of the most effective ways for universities and colleges to address the problem of treating their students is to make care as easy to access as possible. Mobile solutions such as online patient portals, medical scheduling software and other tools help to simply and reliably connect young adults and doctors. Digital solutions that are accessible with a personal mobile device make it easier for students to access healthcare services. Online scheduling lowers the barriers for young adults with crowded schedules and can help for students to understand the costs and responsibilities that come with being a patient.
Beyond the logistics of seeking care, conditions like depression and assault can be difficult for students to address, and they may not have the mindset to seek out treatment. The Sioux City Journal reported telehealth helps colleges work with patients to address these issues by offering online assessments and support. Importantly, Steve Miller, the vice president of the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus told The Clarion Ledger that the adoption of a telehealth system also lowers the institution's cost of effectively treating students.
Universities benefit from the use of mobile platforms in other ways. Letting young adults book visits online can reduce unexpected walk-ins or missed appointments. Providers can securely share digital records with patients and integrated into an existing campus system, benefiting health outcomes as well as tracking and billing. Insurance statements that are online are easier to share with students and families, increasing the probability of a reimbursement for the provider?. A digital system also aids in the tracking of immunizations and other critical concerns. Administrators can also contact non-compliant individuals, and colleges and universities can monitor or prevent the possibility of widespread illness.
Physicians and administrators also benefit from mobile devices because these tools offer flexibility. All told, platforms that operate using mobile technology are more convenient, reducing barriers and making care accessible and comprehensive.