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For One Veterans' Health Program, Video Counseling is a Boon


“When I came home in 2005, I don’t think there were as many programs like this in existence,” Road Home Program psychologist Blake Schroedter said.

Blake Schroedter, PsyD, served 17 years in the military. He did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he’s a clinical psychologist for the Road Home Program at Rush University in Chicago.

“When I came home in 2005, I don’t think there were as many programs like this in existence,” Schroedter told Healthcare Analytics News™. “It certainly would have been helpful for my unit, which is based out of Illinois, to have access to a resource like this.”

The program runs an extremely intensive trauma treatment course every month. Each one features 12 veterans per cohort, focusing either on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or military sexual trauma (MST). The patients come to Rush, which is in Chicago, from all across the country. The University has a partnership with video conferencing vendor Vidyo, which provides the program with free services.

The technology, Schroedter says, has become essential to Road Home’s enrollment process.

“The hope is to develop a greater rapport than you could on the telephone,” Schroedter said. “It also allows for a behavioral observation to help us understand symptomology and affect. We are dealing with trauma, and understanding one’s trauma is important, as well as any depressive symptoms that may be presented behaviorally at the time of screening.”

The transition back from military (and, particularly, combat) life, Schroedter explains, is a huge confounding factors in veterans’ health. A lot is rightly made of PTSD, but there’s so much more that goes into a veteran’s mental state: Depression, potential after-effects of brain injury, and that dearth of comradery and purpose that can sometimes emerge when someone’s no longer in the structured grasp of the armed forces.

The first video appointment typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes, and clinicians are able to learn about factors like the patient’s familial history, military history, and symptom onset. That capability, the psychologist says, is extremely important for a program like Road Home.

“It’s intensive trauma treatment,” he said. “We fly them to Chicago, house them, and treat them at no cost. If that sounds good to them, we set a separate appointment to get a sense of what their PTSD looks like. That way, when they hit the ground in Chicago, it really give us a good sense of what’s driving the PTSD and we can tailor their treatment.”

Currently, the program just uses video conversations for intake—Schroedter said that they’re in talks to extend into video counseling, but his center would only be able to offer that to veterans in Illinois. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) recently received substantial clearance to use telehealth services nationwide, but private institutions like Rush are still limited to working within state lines, regardless of the population they are serving.

Still, “Video allows us to break down the barriers that would have otherwise limited veterans seeking the service.” which can save the University and the program time and money, he said. The sooner healthcare can identify returning veterans who are at risk and provide them treatment, the better their outcomes may be.

The Road Home Program is part of the Warrior Care Network, which also runs initiatives as Massachusetts General Hospital, Emory University in Atlanta, and UCLA.

Related Coverage:

Can Telehealth Combat the Opioid Crisis?

Veterans' Telehealth Bill Likely Headed to President's Desk

The Top 4 Veterans' Health Stories of 2017

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