Saturday, April 6, 2013

VA's Health Buddy for PTSD veterans suffering from PTSD, the VA offers a Health Buddy.  This electronic device acts as a modem that is connected to the veteran's computer.  The Health Buddy has a screen that loads questions about the veteran's emotions, behaviors, and symptoms.  Each day, a new set of questions and lessons load for the vet and a green flashing light indicates when there are questions to answer. Health Buddy provides educational opportunities for the vet to learn about PTSD and gives random trivia questions and facts to break up the monotony of constantly having to use the Health Buddy for PTSD type responses. 

Some commonly found behaviors with PTSD (like substance abuse and compulsive behaviors) will also be listed as education opportunities, even if the vet does not respond stating that he has a problem with these behaviors.  For example, today John's Health Buddy listed 7 different "Substance dependence" requirements and stated that one would be considered to have a problem in this area if he or she answered yes to 3 or more of the 7 items. a veteran gives a distressing answer, the Buddy lists ways for the veteran to cope or manage symptoms and will prompt him or her to call their telehealth coordinator.  Each business day, veteran responses are monitored by a staff member in the Telehealth Department at the veteran's VA healthcare facility.  When abnormal responses are entered, the coordinator calls the vet or family member. 

We have found this telehealth nurse to be a valuable asset to continuity of care at the VA facility.  In our case, I believe that she often has the best picture of what daily life is like for my husband.  If there is a crisis, she seems to be able to get the best answers the quickest.  She acts as a liaison between the mental health professionals to make sure that PTSD symptoms are controlled as best as possible.
Veterans who do not have access to home internet service that will allow for a modem connection can utilize PTSD services through the telehelth department by calling in each day from their phone to answer questions.  We did this for a while before switching to the Health Buddy and found that many of John's responses were tagged as false positives.  After getting daily calls to make sure he was safe and not in distress, we decided to quit using the telephone system. 

The telehealth division has monitoring systems for disorders and diseases other than PTSD.  Some vets are able to get their blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar monitored through similar health buddy systems.  Other systems focus on smoking cessation. 

If you believe the Health Buddy system would help you or a loved one who suffers from PTSD, talk to the primary care physician, case worker, or mental health provider at your local VA Medical Center to get a referral and appointment set up. 

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