Kavina Patel and Farhan Ahmad are sophomores at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Both are enrolled in a dual admissions program that will allow them to receive their undergraduate and medical degrees in seven years, but that’s not what makes them particularly special. They recently were awarded $3,000 for winning a six-week UT System-wide Student Entrepreneurship Fellowship, according to the San Antonio Express-News. They plan to use the money to fund their award winning project, VideoMed. The goal of VideoMed is to provide telepsychiatry software to homeless people in need.
“Many homeless people face depression, but they don?t really know how to go about it or who to tell that they have these types of problems,” Patel said. “They?re very aware that they have mental illnesses but they just don?t know where to go.”
Telemedicine research and telehealth technologies overall have seen rapid advancements over the last couple years. Primarily due to the cost-effective, and convenient nature telehealth solutions provide.
Being homeless inherently makes a person more susceptible to chronic illness. Diagnosable mental disorders are found in 30-35% of those chronically sick. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, about 25% of the U.S. homeless population suffers from a sever mental health issue.
Unfortunately, the majority of those homeless don’t have access to computers or smartphones which is where VideoMed comes in. Their hope is that they can establish a network of shelters, churches, and libraries to set up telepsychiatry software that would be available for homeless people to use.
“There is a lack of continuous care,” Ahmad said. “Homeless people can go and get a consultation ? maybe from a social worker who might be able to help. But they only meet them once and they may not see them (again) for a few months, if ever.”
Essentially, it would make it possible for them to access consistent care from the same provider. If the trends from the overall population remain similar they would have a higher chance of using them as well. One 18-month study found that telemedicine psychiatry patients were 5% more likely to keep appointments made via telepsychiatry software. Another found that they were less likely to be canceled (3.5 to 4.8%).
If all goes according to plan VideoMed will obtain non-profit status and the students’ hope is that through donations and grants their dream will become a reality. More info like this.