Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

IIR 18-266 – HSR Study

IIR 18-266
Optimizing Remote Access to Urinary Incontinence Treatment for Women Veterans
Alayne D Markland, DO MSc
Birmingham VA Medical Center, Birmingham, AL
Birmingham, AL
Susan Hastings MD MHSc
Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC
Durham, NC
Funding Period: January 2020 - September 2024


Background: Primary care and prevention research among women Veterans across the life cycle is an area of increasing focus within VA Health Administration (VHA). Increasing numbers of women Veterans are using the VA for their general and gender-specific health care, representing a doubling in the past decade with 7% of all Veterans seen in the VHA being women. Up to 20 percent of women Veterans experience urinary incontinence (UI) and may be at increased risk due to exposures during military service, such as restricted toilet access and the impact of heavy protective gear and equipment on the pelvic floor. These factors, along with known risk factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopausal transitions increase UI risk among women Veterans. Significance/Impact: This proposed clinical trial focuses on improving access to first-line treatments for women Veterans with UI. Several evidence-based treatments are available for UI including behavioral, medical, and surgical therapies. Behavioral self-management treatments including pelvic floor muscle training, bladder control strategies, and fluid management are widely recommended by guidelines as first-line treatment options because of their demonstrated effectiveness and low risk of side effects. Women who receive behavioral therapy for UI report greater confidence in self-management when provided with input from a clinician with specific training in UI management. To identify gaps in UI treatment modalities within VHA, we surveyed VA gynecologists, urologists, and behavioral and physical therapy providers for first-line treatment options at VA Medical Centers across the nation. We found that only 55% of facilities reported offering pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), while 14% referred to another VA, and 44% referred to non-VA care. Sixteen percent of facilities did not provide PFMT. Our data demonstrated that women Veterans have limited access to clinicians who can provide these safe and effective treatments. Innovation: Given the identified need to improve access to UI treatments, we developed and tested two remote delivery models: an interactive mobile-health or mHealth UI smart phone/computer application and a clinical video telehealth (CVT) visit. This proposed study will incorporate an innovative sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART) design to determine the optimal method for remote delivery. Specific Aims: Our specific aims are to: (1) compare the effectiveness among women Veterans of two remote delivery models for evidenced-based behavioral UI treatment, an interactive mHealth smart phone/computer application versus a remote CVT visit; (2) use a SMART design to optimize UI symptom improvement for women who do not respond to either type of remote delivery; (3) explore key factors that could influence future remote UI treatment dissemination. Our overarching hypothesis is that women Veterans who receive the interactive mHealth application will achieve greater reduction in UI symptoms compared to the training provided in a remote CVT visit. The broad goal is to improve access to evidenced-based UI treatments. Methodology: Including expertise from the Women’s Health Practice-Based Research Network, the Birmingham VAMC, the Atlanta VAHCS, and the Durham VAMC, we will randomize 260 women Veterans (86 per site). We will compare the effectiveness of our mHealth UI application to a CVT session by evaluating the sequential addition of an additional 1:1 CVT visit for non-responders in both randomization groups. This SMART design includes two randomization stages and compares 1 optimization factor over a 3-month intervention period with validated UI symptom outcomes assessed at baseline, 8-weeks, 12-weeks (primary outcome), and 6-months for durabiltiy. Additionally, we will use qualitative methods to identify key factors influencing participation and dissemination from women Veterans and providers. Next Steps/Implementation: Our next steps will be to test the ability to implement the most effective modality for improving access to UI care for women Veterans across a wider array of VHA facilities.

External Links for this Project

NIH Reporter

Grant Number: I01HX002827-01A1

Dimensions for VA

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

Learn more about Dimensions for VA.

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
    Search Dimensions for this project


None at this time.

DRA: Health Systems, Aging, Older Veterans' Health and Care
DRE: Treatment - Comparative Effectiveness, Treatment - Implementation, TRL - Applied/Translational
Keywords: Outcomes - Patient, Reproductive Care (Gynecological), Telemedicine/Telehealth
MeSH Terms: None at this time.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.