Initiatives in telehealth, as reported by CSS students

I have a pet interest in rural health issues. So I was very interested in a presentation recently to Wilderness Health.

Wilderness is staffed by some award-winning people (who are also friends of mine) doing cool things with students (including two of my former students). So caveat emptor, I’m not impartial.

When I heard that two College of St. Scholastica students, Madison Mack and Rachel Barger, presented their research on improving “Telehealth Visits in Rural Minnesota” on Dec. 8, I was interested.

Mack and Barger’s curiosity were fueled by the barriers to accessing mental healthcare in rural Minnesota. These include stigma, confidentiality issues, shortages of mental health care providers, cost of care, and a lack of transportation resources. They noted that “rural patients travel nearly three times longer to seek mental health care than those in urban areas.”

It’s not just rural, right? I remember trying to get a therapist not long ago, and the first one I called dropped me because he got Christmas dinner annually with my ex’s parents. Duluth is a small town, and access to mental healthcare isn’t easy.

The proposed model by Mack and Barger aims to reduce these barriers by utilizing telehealth. They focused on the interaction between physical and mental health and suggested that primary care providers (like family doctors and nurse practitioners) work hand in hand with mental healthcare providers to care for the whole person.

Telehealth technologies can help bring these behavioral health specialists into rural clinics virtually. Wilderness Health works with its nine-member hospitals on initiatives to improve rural health in Minnesota. Telehealth for Mental Health is the latest project, and it looks interesting.

I mean, we were (most of us) on telehealth by accident in the pandemic. I’m curious to see what it looks like, implemented intentionally.

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