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Telepsychiatry Cuts Veteran Psychiatric Hospitalization And Builds Active-Duty Wellness

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Telehealth and online video therapy are changing the face of psychiatric care for United States Military Veterans and active-duty soldiers. Recent Veteran Affairs research found significant drops in Veteran hospitalization through the use of online telehealth services, providing resounding support for the effectiveness of telepsychiatry in improving patient care and quality of life.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – April 2012
Veteran Psychiatric Hospital Admissions and Length of Stay Drop 25% With Telehealth


In an unprecedented telemental health services study, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and the VA National Telemental Health Center in West Haven, CT conducted a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of telehealth in close to 100,000 veteran cases.
Findings:From 2006-2010, the use of telepsychiatry sessions and online video conferencing resulted in a 24.2% drop in psychiatric hospital admissions and a 26.6% decrease in length of stay for those who were admitted.
Applications:VA doctors provide a wide range of psychological and psychiatric support to Veterans through secure online therapy sessions, including behavioral pain treatment programs, bipolar disorder treatment, medication management, and compensation and pension exams.
Actions:In light of the proven success of telehealth, the Veteran Affairs Department intends to increase telemental health consultations by 30 % in 2012, to 200,000 encounters. They intend to emphasize Veteran access from home computers rather than VA medical center clinics and will no longer charge co-pays for these services. In addition to hiring more mental health professionals for routine care, the VA will directly support telemental health services with another 1,300 employees.

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VA Suicide Prevention — June 2012

The benefits of telepsychiatry in military applications are vast. Beyond the latest initiatives highlighted here, the military continues to leverage telehealth to serve disabled Veterans and overseas active-duty soldiers in the most cost-effective, clinically-urgent way possible. Telehealth is immediate, affordable, and private – three of the most critical factors in the successful evolution of healthcare.
Initiative:The VA’s online videoconferencing program will emphasize the evaluation and careful monitoring of suicidal patients, as appropriate, from the privacy of their homes. Experts at the VA Office of Telehealth see tremendous benefits in the increased availability and convenience of private mental health services online.
Quality of Life:The need for and acceptance of psychiatric support are highly sensitive issues in the military culture, particularly among active-duty soldiers. Telepsychiatry facilitates earlier intervention, consistent therapy, and certain privacy to help wash away the stigma of mental health issues among military personnel.
Implications:VA staff continues to encourage online encounters with military personnel to combat increasing suicide rates among active-duty troops and Veterans.

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