In what could be a game-changer for the mental health crisis facing many colleges and universities, virtual health providers TimelyMD and Instructure have launched a new innovation that allows college students to directly seek services within their Canvas learning management system portal.
Students at institutions that have TimelyMD already have 24/7 access to help, but the actual integration of care within an LMS is unique. In fact, just by clicking “TimelyCare” in their navigation bars when they are experiencing stress or anxiety in the classroom, students can be directed to nurses, counselors or physicians in a few minutes in a separate window.
Completing wraparound services and making their availability easier is paramount for higher education leaders who are facing a full-blown epidemic that has been noted by 90% of students by short-handed healthcare teams at institutions and even by the Biden Administration, which has pressed colleges and universities to use their HEERF funds to reverse alarming mental health trends. The American Council on Education has called it the No. 1 problem facing administrators. “About 40% of all mental health visits through TimelyCare occur after hours, and we know academics are a significant source of stress,” says Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder of TimelyMD. “It’s important to meet students where they are and offer as many on-ramps to care as possible. Focusing on academics and taking care of oneself are not mutually exclusive.”
The development of the idea came during a brainstorming session among TimelyMD leaders who were trying to bridge gaps in healthcare coverage for students among the 200 campuses they serve, including 10 of the top 25 national universities and one in every 10 community colleges in the U.S.
“We really wanted to ensure that students had equitable access to care,” says Becky Laman, senior vice president of growth strategy and partnerships at TimelyMD. “Schools are very stressed financially and students are stressed financially and technologically. There are a lot of socioeconomic barriers, as well as insecurities, that students face. So how can we provide students with increased access to care, no matter the technology modality that’s available to them? Not every student has access to a smartphone. Not every student has their own personal computer, laptop or desktop.
“The missing link [in access to care] was within their academic environment. We talked to Canvas and said, ‘Is this a possibility?’ They said, absolutely. We were really passionate about two things: ensuring that it was easy for the students and ensuring it was easy for the school. Through just a matter of clicks, the schools can integrate our TimelyCare app and students can have it directly in their navbar and have access to care. It’s important, too, that the faculty know it’s there.”
The integration is available now to institutions who have both Timely and market-leading Canvas, but even those who don’t use Instructure’s LMS might see the service offered in the future. The implementation is indeed a snap for technology officers who are already connected and will be another tool to take the pressure of overburdened staff. “A lot of schools have been overtaxed with the number of students needing counseling support,” Laman says. TimelyMD’s resources have even cut wait times by half for those seeking campus care in person.
For students, it’s not only helpful in those moments of uncertainty and unease but quick, too.
“We have a 5-10-minute wait time to talk with a provider,” Laman says. “Imagine a student that’s going to take a quiz or test and they have a panic attack or an anxiety attack. They see that TimelyCare button and they can access it. We have a wide range of services that include mental health counseling, on-demand emotional support, medical care, psychiatric care, health coaching, and basic needs assistance, which has been huge for students with socioeconomic barriers to success. We don’t want students to just get better in that moment, we want them to be well overall. So that continuity of care—the follow up with the students, the sharing of health records back with the institution, the ability to integrate with learning management systems—it’s really a comprehensive solution.”