VA online tool helps veterans compare PTSD treatments

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A new online tool is helping the nearly 620,000 veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to actively engage in decisions about their care and to find the right treatment option.

Recently launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is designed to help compare various evidence-based treatments and explain how they work.

“We know from research and our own clinical experience that veterans can recover and improve their quality of life with the right PTSD treatment plan,” said Poonam Alaigh, MD, the VA’s acting under secretary for health. “We want our veterans and those who care for them to have access to effective treatment options. Knowing about the latest research can help them get the best care possible.”

The interactive tool provides information about evidence-based PTSD treatments, including antidepressants; cognitive processing therapy; eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing; prolonged exposure; and stress inoculation training. In particular, the online resource has more than 40 short videos of expert clinicians describing what to expect from different treatment options.

Developed by the VA’s National Center for PTSD, users of the tool can generate a personalized summary that includes information about their symptoms, goals, treatment preferences and questions that can be brought to a medical appointment. However, the VA notes the importance of veterans saving or printing this summary because the information entered into the PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is deleted once the browser session is closed.

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PTSD is a medical diagnosis defining symptoms that last at least a month after experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms include remembering or reliving the trauma, feeling numb and withdrawn, and having forms of anxiety that interfere with daily life.

While research indicates that evidence-based treatments offer the best chance of recovery, the tool also provides a brief list of other types of treatments for PTSD and their level of benefit. According to the VA, some of these other treatments have not been studied enough to determine with certainty whether they work for PTSD. At the same time, the agency notes that people with PTSD may choose to receive a treatment that is not evidence-based and may find it is beneficial.

“The PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is an important step in putting veterans in control of their healthcare,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD. “By helping to bridge understanding and communication between veterans and providers about the most effective treatment options available, we are ensuring veterans receive the treatments that best promote their healing and recovery.”

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