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Telehealth and higher education: TimelyMD aims to be at the top of the class

Article

The company’s virtual care platform offers mental health services and medical care at more than 250 colleges. CEO Luke Hejl said TimelyMD is poised for more growth.

College students are struggling with their mental health, perhaps more than ever before.

Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder of TimelyMD

Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder of TimelyMD

More than 60% of college students exhibited at least one mental health problem in the 2020-21 year, according to the Healthy Minds Study. More than 350,000 students from 373 campuses were surveyed; the findings were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in June 2022.

More hospitals say they are seeing sharp increases in the number of kids and teens arriving in emergency departments for mental health issues.

TimelyMD, which provides a virtual health platform for college campuses, sees a growing need for students and growing demand for the company’s services. The company offers medical care and mental health services aimed at college students.

Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder of TimelyMD, said students have experienced more stress and mental health challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If mental health was a fire, COVID was the gasoline,” Hejl told Chief Healthcare Executive in a recent interview.

Hejl spoke with Chief Healthcare Executive about the mental health of students, working with colleges, and the company’s rapid growth. TimelyMD touts its ability to help students with their health and to help them stay in school, while enabling campuses to expand their services in light of staffing challenges.

“We’re the market leader in virtual health and well-being for students,” Hejl said. “We’re 100% focused on higher education.”

Rapid growth

TimelyMD is now working with more than 250 colleges and universities and serving more than 1.5 million students around the country. The company ranked 116th in the Inc. Magazine 5000, which ranks America’s fastest growing companies.

In 2022, TimelyMD secured pacts with some top institutions, including Harvard, Northwestern, and Virginia Tech.

In addition to reaching more deals with four-year institutions, TimelyMD is working with a host of community colleges. One in 10 community college students now has access to TimelyCare, the company’s virtual health platform, Hejl said.

Students say they're struggling with their mental health. Seven out of 10 students (71%) said they are experiencing mental health issues, according to a TimelyMD survey of college students released in January.

“We’re seeing increased rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide,” Hejl said.

Students identified their mental health as their primary point of stress, ahead of their finances and academics.

“Student mental health continues to be their number one concern,” said Katie Neal, TimelyMD’s vice president of communications and marketing. “And that’s saying something.”

The 24/7 access to telehealth services is particularly useful in reaching students, he said. About 40% of student visits to TimelyMD’s services occur after hours or on the weekends.

Given that students may be focused on their academics, athletics, or other extracurricular activities, Hejl said that shouldn’t be surprising.

“They don’t realize they need help until after hours,” Hejl said.

The company is striving to offer a diverse set of mental health providers, Hejl said. More than half of TimelyMD’s mental health providers identify as members of minority groups, Hejl said.

The clinician diversity is important, he said, especially important for community college students. More than half of community college students are members of minority groups, according to data from the American Association of Community Colleges.

TimelyMD announced a partnership earlier this month with Violet, a health equity platform. The company will work with Violet to improve care coordination for diverse students and develop more inclusive and culturally appropriate care among providers.

“Both TimelyMD and Violet are focused on making an impact on the current youth mental health crisis, which in tandem is related to other health disparities that disproportionately impact historically marginalized young people,” Gaurang Choksi, Violet’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “This partnership will significantly improve inclusive care delivery for students, and we look forward to sharing those outcomes through case studies.”

‘Passionate about our mission’

Many students accessing TimelyMD’s virtual care platform may be simply looking for basic medical care for the flu, a cold or allergies. Hejl said providers are looking at the students they treat from a “whole health perspective.”

“You may be seeking medical care, but we may see a mental health issue,” Hejl said. “That’s why the comprehensive nature of our care is so important.”

“Mental health and physical health, they absolutely correlate in so many ways,” he added.

That’s why the company works to find clinicians who are attuned to the needs of college students.

“We are focused on finding providers who are passionate about delivering care to the student population,” Hejl said.

Hejl said the company reaches out to faculty and staff to make sure students are aware of the healthcare services that are available virtually.

“It’s making sure we try to get deep into the DNA of the campus,” Hejl said.

Colleges with higher usage rates tend to do a good job of promoting the services, including in admissions offices, Neal added.

Even with many students saying they are struggling with stress and anxiety, it’s not always easy for young people, or those of any age, to take the next step and get some assistance.

TimelyMD has recently developed a peer-to-peer network, which allows students to talk with other students with problems. Those students can be directed to professional assistance as needed. Students can go to peers, with minor issues, such as struggling to get a roommate to turn off the light, or direct them to a clinician if they present some suicidal ideation, Hejl said.

“One of the things we’ve known for years, many go to their peers,” Hejl said.

The company is aiming to find new ways to offer services and connect with students, he said.

Hejl said the company also plans a significant focus in 2023 to identify “the results of the care that we’re delivering.”

“Our team is so passionate about our mission to improve the health and well-being of students,” he said.

If you are struggling or need assisstance, call 988: The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.


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