Telemedicine

Telemedicine: Breaking Barriers to Psychotherapy

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The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), substance abuse, and traumatic brain injury in veterans has many concerned about accessibility to quality medical care. According to RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, about 20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or MDD and about 7.1% of veterans meet the criteria for substance abuse disorder. This report, in addition to numerous others, has expressed the growing need for confidential, evidence-based psychotherapy. Luckily, a recent study may have a solution – telemedicine!

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Published just this month, a randomized, open-label trial demonstrated the equivalence of psychotherapeutic care delivered via home-based telemedicine and same-room treatment. Randomized screening of 780 patients between April 1, 2007 and July 31, 2011 showed no statistical difference between treatment of the veterans, according to metrics of Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.

In fact, psychotherapy via telemedicine may even be more beneficial to veterans as it helps to overcome many of the barriers to mental health care. Such barriers include those of mobility, stigma, and geographical isolation. For the over 5.3 million veterans living in rural communities in the United States with limited access to mental health care, telemedicine is a cost effective, valuable opportunity.

As applications of telemedicine begin to expand, people are looking towards this innovative field to help make a difference. Telemedicine for behavioral health, or telebehavioral health, is just one of the ways this is being accomplished!

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