Technology Helping Veterans

Researchers at the VA’s San Diego Healthcare System finds therapy delivered via video conferencing to be very effective in treating PTSD in veterans. According to the May issue of “VA Research Currents”, the VA studied 207 veterans in one of the largest studies done in the VA to test new ways of delivering evidence-based psychotherapy for veterans with PTSD. “The new ways for delivering therapy are also important for veterans with PTSD who do not feel comfortable driving or who may feel uncomfortable in hospitals or other crowded places,” said, lead researcher Steven Thorp, PhD, a Psychologist with the VA and Associate Professor with the University of California, San Diego.

Both men and women in the study received 12 weekly individual sessions of cognitive processing therapy. The treatment developed in large part by Boston-based VA Researcher Patricia Resick, PhD, helps patients change their negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs surrounding the trauma they have experienced.

Half the veterans received the therapy in person at the main San Diego VA site in La Jolla. The others receive the therapy via video conferencing at the VA Mission Valley Clinic about ten miles away.

Veterans in both groups showed significant reductions in their PTSD symptoms at three months after the treatment ended. Improvements among the in-person group were somewhat stronger. However, at a six month follow-up, both groups showed equal gains. Overall, the results suggest that telemedicine particularly video conferencing is a safe and effective approach for veterans with PTSD.

In another project, veterans at the Richmond VA Prosthetic Treatment Center in Richmond Virginia are now benefiting from the newly developed C-brace system. The technology is helping veterans with incomplete spinal cord injury, weakness of the quadriceps, and veterans affected by post polio syndrome. This new device has only been used with thirty patients across the country but most recently at the Richmond VAMC.

Veterans can use the brace to change speeds, to walk with controlled knee flexion, and to move more efficiently. The C-brace also provides stumble control by resisting uncontrolled knee flexion when sensors read a moment of instability and then provides the time necessary to recover. The device combines real-time gait analysis, energy redistribution of carbon fiber, and the ability to use software to customize the knee joints response.

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