Access to Behavioral Health Care for Geographically Remote Service Members and Dependents in the U.S.
This small but significant telemental health clinical pilot could easily serve as a "best practice" model for resource utilization between the nation's VHA/DOD institutions that wish to form partnerships and capitalize on resources. It demonstrates several potential areas of collaboration for TMH projects. For example, this study also points out requisite preparation needs, e.g., an information technology (IT) needs assessment, and gap analysis between neighboring VHA/DOD installations should be considered beforehand. This would address equipment compatibility and address protected health information privacy concerns. This preparation would also lead to savings by avoiding equipment redundancy and minimize infrastructure (space) investment. While in this instance the equipment proved compatible, that may not always be the case. Second, regional strategic mapping of staff and services between institutions could help in specialty service utilization. This would improve recourse allocation, trim numerous costs, and avoid service duplication. A third area of collaboration would be the creation of a DOD/VHA electronic credentialing packet. This would simplify the preparation phase for TMH delivery and expand the availability of scarce medical specialty consultants for both the VHA and DOD. This would serve to streamline medical care and expedite the deployment of "virtual" practitioners in the event of a national disaster or emergency. To date there have not been any technical difficulties at either site and PC-PTSD-positive soldiers continue to be evaluated at the SVMAC. Anecdotal reports from both clinicians and patients are that they are highly satisfied with TMH delivery services.