Is Information Technology Useful for Veterans?
Health information technology (HIT)—the use of computers and computer systems to manage the exchange of medical information among patients, health care providers, insurance companies, and others—has a number of benefits, especially for people with more than one medical condition. But a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that health care providers should not rely too heavily on technology when it comes to veterans who are managing mental and chronic health problems.
According to researchers, 40 percent of veterans suffer from a mental health condition like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, 20 percent of male veterans and 32 percent of female veterans are also dealing with at least one of 10 chronic medical conditions. Health IT can be an important tool for these patients, but veterans with mental health problems and comorbid conditions face multiple challenges, and it’s important for providers to understand each patient’s specific health care needs and preferences related to technology.
Using information from an online survey conducted via the Department of Veterans Affairs patient portal and through patient assessments, researchers determined that about 44 percent of veterans using health IT for self-management do so at least once a month and 21 percent use it less often. Seventy-nine percent use health devices to look for information, 71 percent to communicate with their health care providers, and 65 percent to keep track of their medications. However, avoidance is a common symptom of PTSD, and researchers caution that over-utilization of health IT could push some veterans to withdraw further from important health care.
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