Veterans go for digital psychotherapy

Seen as unique opportunity to increase access to health services
By Jack McCarthy
10:11 AM
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Computerized psychotherapies, or CPTs, hold great interest for veterans receiving outpatient treatment, according to a study published in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The study, relying on information provided by 151 veterans receiving treatment in a Veterans Health Administration substance use disorder outpatient clinic, showed veterans were open to a variety of CPTs.

Of the respondents, 82 percent were interested in CPTs to treat at least one problem, with 60 percent interested for more than one.

The most commonly selected CPTs were for substance use (46 percent), depression (45 percent), problem solving (43 percent), and insomnia (42 percent).

Expanding health information technology provides a "potentially unique opportunity" to increase access to health services for traditionally underserved populations, such as those with substance use disorders, the study found.

The VHA, as the largest integrated healthcare system in the U.S., has become a leader in many aspects of health IT and as such is a logical provider of CPTs, according to the report.

"Internet- or computer-based therapies" for mental health and substance use disorders may reduce costs associated with therapist time, help patients overcome avoidance of treatment due to stigma, and solve access issues due to lack of trained therapists in some locations, scheduling conflicts, and transportation barriers.

[See also: VHA gets bullish on population health and Kaiser, VHA team up for innovation.]

"CPTs are fast growing and wide-ranging and offer opportunities, in concert with face-to-face therapies, for lowering the cost of disease management among individuals with substance use disorders who use health service within and beyond VHA," the report noted. "Data on the efficacy of such programs are also promising."

While CPTs have not been systematically implemented in the VHA and similar safety-net healthcare systems, especially among those with substance use disorders, the report recommended their implementation.

"The findings support making CPTs available," the report concluded, "as a potentially feasible option for enhancing the care of veterans and others with substance use disorders."

This story was first published on Government Health IT, Healthcare IT News' sister website.