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Telemental Health Expands in VA between 2006-2010


VA has delivered more than 500,000 telemental health services in the last decade, with more than 112,000 annual telemental health encounters in 2010 alone. Historically, telepsychiatry consisted of medication management services, but has since expanded to include individual and group psychotherapies. Moreover, in 2004, VA implemented the Mental Health Strategic Plan, which made increasing access to evidence-based mental health treatments for Veterans a national priority. As VA expands the provision of mental health services to rural areas via videoconferencing, it is important to monitor the trends in the composition of telemental health services. This is the first large scale study to describe the types of telemental health services provided by the VA healthcare system. Using VA data from FY06 through FY10, investigators identified all telemental health patient encounters from a VA healthcare facility to a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, categorizing them into five types of mental health services: 1) medication management, 2) individual psychotherapy with medication management, 3) individual psychotherapy without medication management, 4) group psychotherapy, and 5) diagnostic assessments.

Findings show that each type of telemental health encounter increased substantially across the five years; for example, the number of encounters for medication management increased from 13,466 in FY06 to 32,284 in FY10, representing a 140% increase over the five year period. Psychotherapy with medication management was the fastest growing type of telemental health service, increasing from 14,188 encounters in FY06 to 45,107 encounters in FY10, a 218% increase. The use of videoconferencing technology has expanded beyond medication management alone to include telepsychotherapy services (individual and group psychotherapy) and diagnostic assessments. The increase in telemental health services is encouraging, given the large number of returning Veterans who live in rural areas and may have difficulty accessing mental healthcare.

PubMed Logo Deen T, Godleski L. Fortney J. A description of mental health services being provided via videoconferencing technology in the Veterans Healthcare Administration: 2006-2010. Psychiatric Services November 1, 2012;63(11):1131-33.

This study was funded by HSR&D. Dr. Fortney is part of HSR&D Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research, Little Rock, AR.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.