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Dr Chris Pagnani: Bringing Consistency to Psychiatric Care for College Students


Chris Pagnani, MD, medical director and founder of Rittenhouse Psychiatric Associates in Philadelphia, explains the importance of offering college students consistent care via telehealth while collaborating with their campus counseling centers.

Telemedicine can help to increase access to psychiatric and mental health care, especially among college students. Chris Pagnani, MD, medical director and founder of Rittenhouse Psychiatric Associates in Philadelphia, explains that by adopting the approach, he's been able to reach patients across 5 states while also providing students with more consistent care than they typically receive through college counseling centers.


You mentioned that you also work with the college student population. How do you utilize telehealth with this demographic of patients?

What we've found, and this has been consistent for years, or at least, you know, the decade-plus that we've had our practice, is that a lot of the college and student counseling centers are really fantastic and have great providers and obviously care very much about their students. However, they tend to have pretty limited resources in terms of treating a patient long-term. So it's not uncommon that if someone, let's say that they're a freshman at a local university, they might say, alright, if someone is struggling, "You go ahead and give us a call, we'll assign you to a counselor, you'll have an evaluation, and then you're able to have 4 or 6 follow-up sessions, so we can stabilize things. And then, after that, we would transfer you to a provider in the community."

A lot of those college towns—obviously, major cities have a lot of schools and universities—but there are also a lot of college towns in areas that are more remote or more rural. In those areas, there weren't many providers that students could follow up with. So you have counseling centers being really overwhelmed trying to navigate that. And now it's been such a shift where we can say, "Hey, individuals who are going to Penn State [University], individuals who are going to Shippensburg [University] or other schools that are farther away from the city, we can take over your care, we can collaborate with your university, with your counseling center, make sure there's a good streamlined transfer of services to our practice, and then we can follow up with you as long as you're in the area, or as long as you're in the state." So that's been a really nice change that I believe not just the private practices and other practices and hospitals have appreciated, but also the counseling centers, because it's taken a little bit of that additional pressure off of them to try to navigate being overwhelmed or having limited resources.

A new report aims to address the mental health crisis in the younger generations.1 Do you think that they could benefit from telehealth because of their inclination toward digital platforms?

I think that that is a very good point, and I agree that for particularly Gen Z and then some of the younger generations, there's just a comfort level with using some of these apps, understanding the technology and the increased access that they allow, and they provide people to have, I think, it's going to be very important to continue to flourish and be utilized as everyone's getting a little bit older and we're having to tackle the mental health difficulties that we have in this country.


1. Grossi G. Mental health diagnoses, care challenges rise among US youth, report finds. AJMC. April 26, 2024. Accessed May 9, 2024. https://www.ajmc.com/view/mental-health-diagnoses-care-challenges-rise-among-us-youth-report-finds

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