Science and Technology News

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Telehealth Allows Providers to Care for Service Members ‘From a Distance’

By Corina Notyce, DCoE Strategic Communications

Imagine being a psychologist sitting across from your patient.

Now imagine that patient is actually hundreds of miles away.

This is the scenario behind the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s (T2) first live Introduction to Telemental Health Delivery workshop, recently held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The workshop offered guidance to providers on how to offer mental health services from a distance—in this case, using video conferencing technology.

“The Department of Defense is pushing for this form of care because it’s a way to reach a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t get care,” said workshop presenter Dr. Greg Kramer, T2 clinical health psychologist.

About 25 health care professionals from every military branch attended the training, some from as far away as Japan. The session included information on the history of teletechnology in health care, addressed legal challenges, and provided a chance for attendees to practice video conferencing with each other.

“[This workshop] allows them to get comfortable with the technology,” Kramer said.

An estimated 87 million Americans live in places where health care is difficult to access. Additionally, up to 25 percent of service members screen positive for mental health concerns, according to T2’s Introduction to Telemental Health.

“This allows us to provide things like telepsychiatric appointments especially in rural and high needs areas,” said Dr. Jamie Adler, T2 clinical telehealth division chief.

The technology can be used in a variety of ways, from treating post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, to wellness and resiliency interventions. Many of the attendees had started using teletechnology to provide such services to patients at off-site locations.

This rare in-person training, as opposed to online sessions, gave these providers the chance to learn more about technical, legal and clinical elements of providing telemental health care.

“I took some notes that I think are valid points for implementing this,” said Dr. Agnes Babkirk, a psychologist from U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan.

She’s bringing the information back to her colleagues, who currently use teletechnology to interact with patients three or four times a week. Dr. Daniel Christensen, the chief of Madigan Army Medical Center’s Soldier Readiness Service, had a similar experience, as they began using teletechnology for post-deployment behavioral health screenings in March.

For more information on how T2 is integrating technology with psychology, visit their website, and download the DoD Telemental Health Guidebook.

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