Sunday, July 13, 2008

Computers Helping VA Patients

The VISN 1 Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center, (MIRECC) has found that using a computer to deliver coping skills training programs boosts treatment success when added to a traditional outpatient treatment program. Seventy seven patients with drug abuse issues entering treatment were given either standard care alone or standard care with the addition of a multimedia computer program based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT uses the learning process to train individuals to change addictive behaviors. When used for drug abuse treatment, CBT helps patients recognize situations in which they are most likely to use drugs, how to avoid these situations when appropriate, and how to cope more effectively with a range of drug-related problems.

In the eight week treatment study, patients who used the computer-based program had fewer drug positive urine specimens and had longer periods of abstinence during treatment when compared to patients who only met with a counselor. This is the first time that a computer-based treatment has been shown to work with drug abusers in treatment programs. This research represents a breakthrough because it delivers a proven behavioral therapy in a user-friendly online format that can be administered anytime and anywhere using a computer.

In another VA development to help veterans with mental health issues, 44 new community based outpatient clinics are coming on board at the VA to provide healthcare closer to home for veterans in 21 states. These clinics in addition to on-site primary care staff, very often have state-of-the-art telehealth systems that permit veterans to regularly contact their doctors in specialties from cardiac care to mental health at the VA’s regional hospitals via video consultations.