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Telemed J E Health. 2015 Jun;21(6):467-72. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2014.0114. Epub 2015 Feb 25.

Implementation of video telehealth to improve access to evidence-based psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder.

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2Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston, Texas.
4Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
5Mental Health Product Line, South Central Veterans Health Care Network, North Little Rock, Arkansas.



Increasing access to psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a primary focus of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system. Delivery of treatment via video telehealth can expand availability of treatment and be equally effective as in-person treatment. Despite VA efforts, barriers to establishing telehealth services remain, including both provider acceptance and organizational obstacles. Thus, development of specific strategies is needed to implement video telehealth services in complex healthcare systems, like the VA.


This project was guided by the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services framework and used external facilitation to increase access to psychotherapy via video telehealth. The project was conducted at five VA Medical Centers and their associated community clinics across six states in the South Central United States.


Over a 21-month period, 27 video telehealth clinics were established to provide greater access to evidence-based psychotherapies for PTSD. Examination of change scores showed that participating sites averaged a 3.2-fold increase in unique patients and a 6.5-fold increase in psychotherapy sessions via video telehealth for PTSD. Differences between participating and nonparticipating sites in both unique patients and encounters were significant (p=0.041 and p=0.009, respectively). Two groups emerged, separated by degree of engagement in the facilitation intervention. Facilitation was perceived as useful by providers.


To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study of external facilitation as an implementation strategy for telehealth. Our findings suggest that external facilitation is an effective and acceptable strategy to support providers as they establish clinics and make complex practice changes, such as implementing video telehealth to deliver psychotherapy.


evidence-based psychotherapy; health service utilization; health services research; implementation science; mental health; posttraumatic stress disorder; rural; technology; veterans

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