You know to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep when you're away at college. But keeping up with regular doctor visits or seeing a doctor when you have a problem might seem like a challenge. Whether you still have a pediatrician back home who knows you well or have a new doctor, they're still a trusted source for health guidance.
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Telehealth—video or phone visits with your doctor—has made keeping in touch with your doctor possible when you're far away or can't get to their office easily. The health center at your college might also offer telehealth services for students. This option means you can get the help you need at the right place and time.
Don't delay a check-in
You might not be feeling well, have some small concerns or big concerns. Here are some reasons to set up a telehealth visit:
Cold or flu symptoms
Stomach aches, headaches
Feeling stressed or anxious
Have ongoing medical conditions (like asthma or diabetes) that you need to check in about
Have questions about COVID-19 and vaccinations
Have questions about relationships or sexual health
Need help addressing substance use
If you're wondering if you should call your doctor, call your doctor! Ask if they offer telehealth as an option and schedule an appointment. You might be able to do this through your doctor's office website portal or through their electronic health record system.
Let them know if you need anything to make the visit work better for you—like a sign-language translator.
Plan for privacy
The way you look for quiet time to study, could also be the same way to plan for your telehealth visit. Here are some tips:
Know your roommate's schedule
You probably know when your roommate will be in class and out of your room. If not, ask! Let them know you'd like to schedule an online meeting with your doctor and ask when a good time would be. Then make your appointment to fit in a timeframe when you can have privacy.
In the dorm
Often there is an empty room or study room on the floor or near the lounge that you can use alone. Check with your RA or the front desk if you aren't sure. If the door doesn't have a lock, tape a "studying, quiet please" sign to the door with an end time.
If you're in an apartment or house, choose a room that's as quiet as possible.
Libraries often have private study rooms. College departments do, too. Student centers may have meeting rooms. Check in advance if these rooms are "first-come-first-served" or if you need to make a reservation.
No matter where you set up, don't forget to wear your ear buds or headphones so you can hear the doctor privately. Sit near a window or a lamp with good lighting. Turn off other screens or music so the room is as quiet as possible. Test the link from the office and let them know if you have trouble.
When you start your visit, you will be asked to give consent. This means you agree to see your doctor using video or over the phone. You will probably also be asked to not record the visit. Your visit will not be recorded on the doctor's end either. This is for privacy reasons. And don't worry—your doctor will talk with you about the confidentiality of your visit. They'll let you know if they need to share information about your visit with your parents or caregivers.
Sometimes, there may be a need to schedule an in-person visit after the telehealth visit. This could be for a concern that requires a physical exam, lab tests, immunizations, or other in-person attention. Your pediatrician may guide you to the campus health center or refer you to a local doctor's office. You may need to follow up with your regular doctor the next time you go home.
Taking care of your physical and mental health when you're away from home is important. If you’re feeling some anxiety with the start of a new school year or feeling run down as you start finals, let your doctor know. Telehealth means you don't have to put it off and that help is a click away. Contact your pediatrician or primary care doctor to see if you can schedule a telehealth visit. Let them know if you are in a different state, and they can advise you on the best way to set up a visit. If you need a new doctor, check with your pediatrician or campus health center to see if they can suggest one.
Carving out a private space and time for a telehealth visit might take a little research. As a college student you probably have practice doing that already!
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This resource is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $6,000,000 with no percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.