Study: Veterans Improve PTSD With Telemedicine

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A new study published by the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry has found that telemedicine is a far superior method to deliver treatment for PTSD than requiring veterans to travel to government Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Veterans have traditionally been plagued with the need to travel long distances to VA hospitals in order to receive the treatment they need, but this requirement has been difficult, mostly because veterans with injuries find it difficult to maintain consistency.

Telemedicine, it seems, is an effective substitute and ensures consistency in treatment. Researchers in this study used a randomized trial design to study evidence-based psychotherapy, dividing 265 veterans, who lived in rural areas, into two separate groups. The study lasted from November 23, 2009, to September 18, 2011.

Although the sample size was small, the results are promising.

Veterans in the first group were given access to doctors via telemedicine, which included video correspondence and phone calls. This group was 8 times more likely to complete eight sessions of cognitive processing therapy than the second group, in which veterans still had to commute. The first group showed considerable improvement on PTSD and depression. With research in hand, the VA is considering developing an app to help veterans in rural areas receive the care they need.

“Despite its limitations, this trial introduces a promising model for managing PTSD in a treatment-resistant population. Findings suggest that telemedicine-based collaborative care can successfully engage this population in evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD, thereby improving clinical outcomes,” the researchers wrote.

An additional benefit—and very important benefit given recent VA scandals—is that telemedicine may be effective in reducing both infrastructure costs and wait times, since as of 2012 the number of veterans using hospital services has increased by almost 400,000 over a six year period.

Even still, 20 to 30 percent of personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, reports And around 9.2 percent, or 500,000, of the Veterans Health Administration population suffer from PTSD. The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Jonah Bennett