“Good day! On a scale of 1 to 5, how are you feeling today? 5=Great; 1=Terrible”
(Example of actual interaction being sent vets as part of a messaging intervention PTSD program for veterans)
Providing effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is a challenge. But not insurmountable. More than just behavioral therapies, other therapies such as crisis prevention and intervention is also part of the treatment continuum.
Crisis intervention is among a number of PTSD treatment elements that allows for preventative treatment before a situation escalates. In particular, it can be “focused on minimizing the stress of the event, providing emotional support and improving the individual’s coping strategies in the here and now.” And patient engagement is a crucial element to the success of this important dual path to take for both the patient and clinicians.
Over the years there have been many advances in PTSD treatment, thanks in part to the use of technology and clinical breakthroughs in understanding the pathophysiology of the condition. But the core approaches remain - psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”), medication using Antidepressants, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The Engagement Issue of Talk Therapy
Where “talk therapy” is used, medication compliance monitored, and patterns of thinking changed, patient engagement is the bottom line need for any semblance of success for any of these three treatments.
And the engagement needed is as personalized as possible to the individual’s needs. A clinician’s practical challenge in this case is to be a clinician to their population being one-to-many while still offering the kind of individualized interaction needed as a one-to-one. This is where technology helps.
When dealing with treatment however, it’s not simply population management. The technology needs to be relevant to the treatment in a way that personalizes the interaction, the responses, and the patient experience; being a value to them as an individual.
The technology that is needed for patient engagement enables the important communication between patient and health provider - one that is continuous and engaging, that provides core data and subjective information. This intel provides clinicians early insight, essentially an electronic heads up, to avoid acute situations, allowing the clinicians and/or their community of care to intervene, assess for well-being, and continue to monitor for progress.
Technology then becomes a support tool set for both clinician and patient to obtain the information and insight they both need and tying it all together.
So when the patient answers the wellness message interaction with a “1”, meaning the patient feels terrible, the system responds with the protocol the clinician has set up for that specific case such as : “Sorry that you feel that way. Why don’t you make yourself a cup of tea?”
The automated response with this particular answer was because the system knows that for that individual, a cup of tea is a “de-escalator.” This is where technology goes beyond more than just collecting information or responding.
It incorporates that information back to the engagement platform, notifying their community of care, enabling the type of personalized patient feedback/support required at that time, and at the same time notifying everyone in the care team of the status at that moment, as per their preferred protocols.
The patient then is asked “If you want to speak to someone, click on this link.” At the same time as the patient initiating a direct interaction, the system also directs a notification to the provider/clinician, a loved one or a buddy saying that the patient is feeling lousy right now and may need someone to talk to. And that allows that follow up at a time it is most needed.
The value proposition in general for a clinicians patient population is that on average 92% of their patient population is fine, but who are the 8% needing clinicians help? How do you determine who those people are? Technology should be able to help clinicians discern and attend to the 8% on an automated engaging basis and contact them when it escalates to certain levels.
The Changing Face of PTSD Treatment
Beyond the efficiency it offers health care providers, what does this single and simple technology really mean to PTSD sufferers?
Some insights come from feedback from veterans who were part of the program as an intervention for monitoring and supporting veterans at high risk suicidal
“I had to stop and really think about how I felt, which I have never done before.”
“Once I realized where I was, I used coping strategies to help myself either improve my mood or to maintain it.”
It was about knowing they get the responses specific to them that they become honest to themselves. As a result they feel supported, their particular interests are understood and addressed, and that helped increase the resiliency of those veterans at high risk for suicides.
As we hear in the news, there’s a greater risk for suicide among people diagnosed with PTSD - 27% of PTSD patients have also attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. In 2017, there were 47,173 Americans who died by suicide. On average, there are 129 suicides per day. Men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
Patient engagement cannot be overstated in health management, supporting on-going needs such as crisis intervention and behavioral health treatment through continuous communication. As the ubiquitous and preferred means of communication, the widespread use of platforms and mobile technology should be leveraged to reach these patients and engage them to be involved in their treatment.
According to a peer reviewed study, for mobile technology to be an effective solution for treatment, it must provide minimal disruption to daily routines. The study finds “ a need to account for users’ current and prior mobile technology experience, as well as preferences importance of timely, easy-to-read data presentations to clinicians.
This data and interaction between patient and caregiver must also be relevant. As the study shows the importance of providing regular positive feedback to participants, and making clear to participants how the data they provide are useful.
Technology already in the hands of PTSD patients must be leveraged, and their use of it must be harnessed in a way that helps and supports them and their treatment.
Treatment is a process, and involves many aspects to it. And it is in that process that healing must begin, and it can start with confidence-building in knowing that there is relevant, timely and valuable support and it can come at anytime, anywhere and any device.
There is LifeWIRE.