Telemental Healthcare Beneficial For Rural Vets with PTSD

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A new study suggests that providing more telemental health could have an especially beneficial effect on treatment of rural veterans with PTSD.1

The study published in the June issue of Psychiatric Services concluded that health-service use by veterans with PTSD in rural areas is lower than veterans living in urban areas and that telemental health services could help.

“Research demonstrates that telemental health is useful for addressing the problems associated with a lack of services in rural areas; therefore, the VA should consider adding telemental health services. A special effort to establish telehealth, particularly specialized PTSD clinics, at existing facilities should also be considered,” the authors wrote.

For the study, researchers examined how individual characteristics influenced use of outpatient visits by veterans with PTSD. The study assessed the number of annual visits by 414,748 veterans with PTSD who sought care from October 2007 through September 2008 at VA facilities.

Among the findings were:

  • Veterans from rural or highly rural areas had 19% and 25% fewer medical visits overall, respectively, than urban-dwelling veterans.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had 21% fewer visits than veterans of prior eras.
  • Veterans with comorbid conditions had 64% more visits than veterans with only PTSD.
  • Veterans from rural or highly rural areas had 22% and 33%, respectively, fewer visits to PTSD specialty clinics than veterans from urban areas.

 The researchers wrote that the results of this study also revealed that factors other than geography influenced care-seeking behavior for PTSD.

“Urban-dwelling veterans who served during the current service era were less likely than veterans of prior conflicts to seek care,” the authors wrote. “Although research indicates that younger people are more likely to seek care for mental-health problems, this pattern does not appear to be true for veterans with PTSD. This finding is somewhat concerning, given the VA’s increased attention to PTSD services and multiple efforts to screen for the disorder.”

To increase veterans’ access to mental healthcare, the VA recently announced it has set a goal to conduct more than 200,000 clinic-based, telemental health consultations for all mental-health specialties in fiscal year 2012. 

  1. Brooks E, Novins DK, Thomas D, Jiang L, Nagamoto HT, Dailey N, Bair B, Shore JH. Personal Characteristics Affecting Veterans’ Use of Services for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Jun 15. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100444. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22707088.

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