The switch to remote psychotherapy treatment for veterans diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder has worked for some patients during the COVID-19 pandemic but not for others.
The University of Central Florida and the Orlando VA Healthcare System will explore why that’s the case in a new study that could aid in finding ways to improve therapy delivery during the modern era of pandemics.
The nine-month project will be funded by a more than $25,000 grant from the Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development.
“A large proportion of veterans deal with mental health issues, but often psychotherapy fails to improve their symptoms because for this treatment to be most effective, the patient must adhere to the full schedule, typically involving 10 to 12 sessions,” says Christian King, an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Health Management and Informatics and the project’s co-investigator.
“We wanted to understand why some veterans complete their treatments while others do not,” he says. “Then COVID-19 happened and all sessions that were previously in-person were moved to videoconference or telephone. So the need to understand how to keep veterans engaged in therapy became more urgent because the switch to remote modality created new hurdles.”
The project will mine the electronic medical records of VA to understand how the pandemic affected patients’ treatment for PTSD and depression during the 2020 fiscal year.
In addition to King, the research team includes assistant professor Andriy Koval and associate professor Varadraj Gurupur, both with UCF’s Department of Health Management and Informatics; Dr. Diana Mendez, the project’s principal investigator, with the Orlando VA Healthcare System; Dr. Teresa Carper with Orlando VA Healthcare System; and Dr. Adam Golden with Orlando VA Healthcare System and UCF’s College of Medicine.
“We hope that our study will help improve the treatment of PTSD and depression for veterans,” King says.
King received his doctorate in public policy in a joint program from Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and his master’s in statistics and economics and his bachelor’s in economics and French literature from Hunter College, City University of New York. King joined UCF’s Department of Health Management and Informatics, part of UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education, in 2018.