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Telemedicine outreach for PTSD

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Photo by Jeff Bowen

Long travel distances to urban areas can be a major barrier to care for rural Veterans, especially those with psychiatric illnesses like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To improve mental health care for Veterans living in rural areas, VA has launched telehealth programs that will give rural Veterans with PTSD remote access to psychotherapy and other related services.

One such program, called Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD (TOP), delivers therapy and other care through phone and interactive video contact. Led by researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, it was developed using the work of several VA studies in the past showing that remote delivery of psychotherapy for Veterans with PTSD can be safe and feasible, and have positive effects.

TOP offers frequent phone calls to Veterans participating in the program from a care manager who helps them access services provided by off-site psychotherapists and psychologists. Psychotherapy is delivered through interactive video from a VA medical center to a VA community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC), or directly to the Veteran’s home. The telephone care manager also monitors the Veteran’s progress and helps him or her overcome barriers to care.

Currently, the program is being used at 12 CBOCs affiliated with six VA medical centers. The medical centers are located at Charleston, South Carolina; Iowa City, Iowa; Little Rock, Arkansas; Denver; San Diego; and Seattle. VA expects to expand the program nationwide.

Principal investigator: Dr. John C. Fortney, VA Puget Sound Health Care System

Selected publications and additional information:

Painter JT, Fortney JC, Austen MA, Pyne JM. Cost-effectiveness of telemedicine-based collaborative care for posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatr Serv, 2017 Nov 1;68(11):1157-1163

Fortney JC, Pyne JM, Kimbrell TA, Hudson TJ, Robinson DE, Schnieider R, Moore WM, Custer PJ, Grubbs KM, Schnurr PP. Telemedicine-based collaborative care for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 2015 Jan;72(1):58-67

VA launches telehealth program for rural Vets with PTSD, VA Research Currents, Feb. 15, 2018

VA launches telehealth program for rural Vets with PTSD, VA News Release, March 6, 2018


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