‘Telehealth’ may be the new normal for all types of resources, campus health officials say

(File Photo by Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group)

What happens when face-to-face health appointments are no longer safe?

Many health resources at Kansas State had no option but to transfer online at the beginning of the pandemic in response to this concern.

Counseling Services is one on-campus resource that plans to serve students virtually for the time being.

Kodee Walls, assistant director and training director at Counseling Services, said the toughest obstacle to overcome was “losing the depth of connection which happens when we can meet in person.”

A face-to-face connection is not easily replaceable, Walls said, but even when providing telehealth, working in counseling makes forming connection a necessity.

For physical health appointments, different complications arose.

Dr. Scott Degan, physical therapist at Lafene Health Center, said it’s difficult to physically examine a patient through video calls.

However, the move to online services during the spring semester brought many new opportunities to other on-campus services.

Cats’ Cupboard, now considered an extension of Lafene’s services, saw a significant growth in online ordering when the pandemic first began.

“The hardest concept we faced was the labor,” Sarah Hoyt, operations lead at Cats’ Cupboard, said.

Hoyt said her employees put in the work Cats’ Cupboard needed to operate online and that it felt amazing to provide a purpose for so many people.

While deep connections may take more work to develop, Walls said virtual capabilities have not concerned Counseling Services. In-person appointments have moved to Zoom, and for students without video cameras, Walls said phone consultations and therapy sessions are available as well.

For many students, telehealth is a new concept that can be stressful to try.

To offer optimal therapy sessions, Dr. Degan recommended students take their calls in a “quiet, non-disruptive area and come with questions written down.”

Walls said connecting on time and establishing a comfortable environment will help students prepare for virtual counseling. Most communication is nonverbal, she said, so it’s also important for students to have good lighting.

Depending on state regulations, Dr. Degan said he anticipates that some insurance plans may start expanding coverage to include telehealth services.

Walls also said that online services can be very useful to students since they do not have to worry about “running to Counseling Services for an appointment between classes.” Still, she said she prefers in-person therapy to create better bonds.

To minimize foot traffic, Lafene has asked students to make appointments before visiting in-person by calling (785) 532-6544.