Researchers test app for veteran PTSD treatment

The Syracuse VA Medical Center is launching a study to investigate if a mobile application can help veterans better self-manage post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 16-week study will examine the PTSD Coach, which aims to teach users self-management strategies and techniques. While there is evidence the app can help with cognitive behavioral strategies, it's unclear whether it is a good fit for a military veteran PTSD sufferer. The research team, led by Kyle Possemato, a clinical research psychologist, also wants to see if melding the app with clinician support can enhance self-management activity.

During the study, participants will use the app on a daily basis and adopt one of the recommended symptom management strategies when dealing with PTSD-related distress. Participants will complete a weekly assessment and listen to audio modules aimed at educating them more about the disorder and treatment.

"PTSD is a common problem among veterans seeking primary care, yet most veterans do not engage in PTSD treatment," Possemato, acting associate director for the Research Center for Integrated Healthcare, told FierceMobileHealthcare. "Clinician-Supported PTSD Coach seeks to make PTSD treatment more accessible to veterans by offering a brief treatment that veterans can access in primary care and use own their own. We think that the clinician-supported component helps veterans fully engage and stay engaged in learning symptom management skills in the app."

Members of the study group will use iPod Touch devices if they don't have a mobile computing device or choose not to use a personal device.

"Another issue that we are foresee is that not all patients will be comfortable or interested in use a mobile app. While PTSD Coach is very simple to use, some people prefer not to use technology in treatment," Possemato said.

Investigating mHealth tools to help veterans with PTSD has been an ongoing research focus. In 2012, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine set out to investigate how mobile apps can help patients experiencing PTSD symptoms. More recent efforts involve examining texting as a treatment tool, and how mobile apps can help homeless veterans and provide veterans with quicker insight and care on healthcare issues.

The Syracuse VA Medial Center team hope the upcoming study will lead to improved management of PTSD symptoms, which include depression and general mental and physical stress, and boost health functions such as building self-efficacy and patient knowledge about the disorder.

For more information:
- read the research proposal

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