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College Telepsychiatry Finally Catching Up—Slowly

The majority of American college students feel overwhelmed, depressed, and/or anxious, according to the latest American College Health Association survey. Unfortunately, many schools lack easy access to needed mental health care—if they have any at all. And this doesn’t even take into account the students’ hesitation to seek help due to the stigma often associated with mental illnesses. With the growth of telemedicine, telepsychiatry and telemental health present a viable solution that could overcome many of these challenges.

Already proven to be just as effective as in-person treatments for mental disorders, telepsychiatry offers several benefits for both students and universities. Students will likely value the privacy and easy access, making them more likely to seek treatment. Other issues may also be alleviated, such as lack of transportation, time off from work or class, or childcare, since telepsychiatry hours are not limited to business hours. Universities will appreciate the ability to expand mental health services without requiring large outlays for buildings and staff.

As universities contemplate adding a telepsychiatry program to their resources, they must navigate through evolving legal, regulatory, and financial matters, many of which depend on local or state jurisdictions. These include:

  • Licensing – Some states require doctors to have a telemedicine license in order to practice telemedicine, while other states require physicians to be board certified in their specialties before they can practice telemedicine. Some states allow a doctor licensed in another state to work with telemedicine patients within their borders, but other states require doctors to be licensed in the patient’s jurisdiction.
  • Reimbursement – Increasing numbers of private insurers are covering telemedicine, as are Medicare and Medicaid. However, over half of U.S. states lack laws governing coverage from commercial carriers. For students on their parents’ health plans, this could be a problem.
  • Security – The telemedicine platforms must comply with HIPAA; data must be encrypted, and the web link must be secure. For instance, Skype is not HIPAA-compliant.
  • Informed consent – The states vary widely in their requirements for ensuring that patients understand the potential risks and options regarding treatment, or in this case, telepsychiatry. In a few states, patients must also be informed on how to receive follow-up care.

Although telepsychiatry can be very effective for disorders such as depression, panic attacks, or anxiety, urgent and severe cases still need in-person intervention. This includes cases where people may be in danger of harming themselves or others.

As telemedicine becomes more available on college campuses, recommendation from trusted sources (word-of-mouth) will spread the word about the accessibility and effectiveness of telepsychiatry, believes Dr. Nadia Islam, clinical director of the University of Southern California (USC) Telehealth. USC has operated an online behavioral health clinic since 2012; during this time, the professors associated with the program have found that many of their clients have admitted either that they would never have sought therapy in the past, or that they tried therapy before but didn’t stick with it; most of these patients tend to shy away from traditional office buildings.

By using a smartphone, tablet, or computer—at home or a local mental health agency—patients can bring the doctor into their homes or dorm rooms, instead of traveling to the doctor. This enables the doctor to see more patients each day, since moving from one patient to the next is a simple matter of ending one call and picking up another. And when both patients and doctors benefit, this can only be a win-win solution for everyone involved.

Doctor questioning

Why Are Some Physicians Slow to Embrace Telemedicine?

A recent survey has revealed that although doctors and consumers agree on the benefits of telemedicine, doctors have been slower to embrace the technology than their patients. According to the Deloitte 2018 Surveys of US Health Care Consumers and Physicians, over half of the consumers who have not yet tried video visits are willing to use the technology in the future, but less than one out of five physicians without video visit capability plans to add the service to his/her practice during the next couple years. Read more

blindfolded woman near pit

Avoid These Telemedicine Pitfalls

At the recent American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference in Chicago, healthcare providers were offered insight into five key measures that are vital to a successful telemedicine program, as described by Afua Branoah Banful, MD, an expert in growth strategies focused on hospitals and health systems. Ignoring any of these can cause an organization to stumble into telemedicine pitfalls that can doom a telemedicine program from the start. Read more

hospital administrators

New Insights from Healthcare Execs on Telemedicine Adoption

A new survey reveals that 86% of healthcare executives rate telemedicine as a priority, but they’re cautious about committing their budgets to an industry that is still experiencing growing pains. As outlined in Defining Telemedicine’s Role: The View from the C-Suite from Sage Growth Partners, a healthcare research, strategy, and marketing firm in Baltimore, many executives remain wary of the complex regulations, reimbursement challenges, and connectivity issues surrounding telemedicine adoption. Read more

businessman touching internet concept

How Does the Net Neutrality Repeal Affect Telemedicine?

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along partisan lines to repeal the 2015 ruling that instituted net neutrality. When the repeal takes effect in February, internet service providers (ISPs) will no longer be prohibited from blocking or slowing particular web content, or from charging distinct prices for different connection speeds. While some experts welcome the freedom of an open internet, transparency rules, and the stimulation of business development, others are more skeptical of the ramifications of such a move on the telemedicine industry and its patients. Read more

Stethoscope and gavel

Year in Review: 2017 Telemedicine Legislation

Over the last year, 63 pieces of telemedicine legislation focusing on telemedicine were approved in 34 states, according to the Center for Connected Health Policy. These bills facilitated multi-state medical licenses, defined terminology, and established care standards, among other issues. Read more

Telemedicine Specialists: A New Discipline?

Considering the steady growth of the telemedicine industry, two physicians at New York-Presbyterian have proposed the creation of a new specialty representing the “medical virtualist.” In a recent JAMA Viewpoint article, the authors cite a combination of the lack of oversight, inconsistent training, and specific skill sets, including webside manner, as compelling reasons for certifying full-time telemedicine specialists with a defined set of core competencies. Read more

elderly man in ambulance

Maximizing the Potential for Mobile Telestroke

When it comes to treating stroke, every moment counts. A stroke patient only has a three-hour window from symptom onset in which access to the clot-busting and lifesaving drug tPA can do the most good; after that, the chances of recovery plummet. Unfortunately, many regional and rural hospitals don’t have a 24-hour neurologist on hand to make timely diagnoses. To make things worse, only about 27 percent of stroke patients arrive at the hospital within 3.5 hours of symptom onset, leaving nearly three-quarters of stroke patients at risk for more permanent damage. (1) In an effort to deliver care to patients in a timelier manner, systems are increasingly looking into mobile telestroke programs. Read more

swyMed Partners with Bassett Healthcare Network to Provide Highly Reliable Video Telemedicine Technology for Its School-Based Health Centers

Initiative to Allow for Real-Time Video Encounters between Network Hospitals and the District’s Educational Institutions

Lexington, MA – May 16, 2017 – swyMed, a provider of exceptional-quality video telemedicine solutions, and Bassett Healthcare Network today announced that they have joined forces to allow for highly reliable video telemedicine encounters within Bassett Healthcare’s 15 School-Based Health Centers (SBHC). Bassett Healthcare’s SBHCs are medical offices located within school buildings, in partnership between school districts and their six network hospitals and 46 regional health centers.  Under the terms of the agreement, swyMed is providing Bassett Healthcare’s SBHCs with the advanced networking infrastructure capabilities to allow for real-time video telemedicine encounters between area students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and medical staff.   Read more

Diagnosis of addiction with syringe and stethoscope

Treatment Providers Debate the Use of Telemedicine for Addiction

Can telemedicine be used to treat drug addiction?

This past January, the Addiction Industry Executive Summit held their annual meeting. Among the topics was telemedicine addiction—treating addiction remotely. Telemedicine is already commonly used to treat illnesses such as pink eye and bronchitis, but whether it should be used for addiction recovery has been debated heavily. Read more