A recent Medscape report on a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry reveals that telemedicine can be considered as a viable treatment method for rural veterans suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What impact will this have on how we treat PTSD in Veterans living in rural areas?
According to the study, back in 2012, almost 9% of the population covered by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), represented by over 500,000 veterans, were diagnosed with PTSD. The study also brought to light that nearly 37% of veterans enrolled in VHA were rural residents, and for about 66%, a VHA community-based outpatient facility was closer than a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.
These geographic limitations did not allow rural veterans to take advantage of the benefits of evidence-based treatments for PTSD, since it wasn’t possible in a practical way to get on-site consultations from psychologists or psychiatrists with expertise in PTSD.
Key findings of the study
The study was conducted by researchers on 265 veterans living in rural areas and suffering from severe PTSD symptoms. About half of the patients received telemedicine outreach for PTSD, while the other half were given standard care from 11 outpatient clinics. The PTSD telehealth treatment was carried out with the help of an offsite team that offered telehealth support to caregivers at the clinic. This offsite team was comprised of:
- Nurses carrying out care management via telephone
- Pharmacists reviewing medication histories of patients via telephone
- Psychologists providing cognitive processing therapy via video chat
- Psychiatrists monitoring the offsite care team and offering interactive consultations via video chat
The study evaluated the severity of PTSD pre- and post-intervention, while also recording the levels of depression and the overall quality of life of the patients. Over a span of 12 months, the results of the study showed:
- 54.9% of patients receiving PTSD treatment via telemedicine could avail the benefits of cognitive processing therapy, as opposed to only 12.1% of those who were given standard care.
- Telemedicine treatment enabled 27.1% of patients to benefit from eight or more cognitive processing therapy sessions, compared with 5.3% of those that did not receive any telemedicine intervention.
- Additionally, it was found that attending eight or more cognitive processing therapy sessions significantly helped in reducing PTSD symptoms.
- Not only were PTSD symptoms alleviated, but veterans receiving telehealth care also showed relatively lower levels of depression than patients on standard care.
Impressive results that are encouraging, but more work still needs to be done?
Through the study, telemedicine emerged as “a promising model for managing PTSD in a treatment-resistant population,” however, lead author, John Fortney agreed that more research would be needed to develop applicable strategies for the VA to embrace telehealth service as a feasible treatment option for PTSD. The early study is promising, and could provide hope to veterans in rural and outlying areas who are not able to easily access treatment face to face.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the study. Do you think telehealth is a viable option for these rural veterans?
About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org