|By David Vergun, Army News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Army, along with the other military services and
the Department of Veterans Affairs, is standardizing the diagnosis and
treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.
“No matter where Soldiers are getting care or seeking help for PTSD or
any other medical issue, we want to ensure we are doing it the same
way,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Warner, the Army Surgeon General’s
psychiatric consultant and deputy commander, Clinical Services, Bassett
Army Community Hospital, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
Soldiers often have delayed reactions to traumatic events that
may take years to manifest. Pictured above are Soldiers on an
operation in Dora, Iraq, in June 2007. Army Medical Command
Policy Memo advocates standardizing the diagnosis and care of
Soldiers suffering from PTSD.
(U.S. Army file photo )
Warner said standardization increases a Soldier’s level of trust and
fairness in the system.
The Army medical community now is being trained on guidelines spelled
out in Army Medical Command Policy Memo 12-035 (April. 10, 2012), Policy
Guidance on the Assessment and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, Warner said.
The memo emphasizes the urgency of the issue.
“The majority of servicemembers with PTSD do not seek treatment, and
many who do seek treatment drop out before they can benefit,” the memo
reads. “There are many reasons for this, including stigma, other
barriers to care, and negative perceptions of mental health care. Lack
of trust in military behavioral health professionals has been identified
as one important predictor of servicemembers not utilizing services.
Therefore, it is critical that Army behavioral health professionals do
everything they can to advocate for and provide care in a
patient-centered manner that reassures patients that they will not be
judged and that their primary concerns will be addressed.”
PTSD is a widespread problem. It occurs in 3 to 6 percent of
servicemembers with no deployment experience and in 5 to 25 percent of
servicemembers who have been deployed to combat zones. Combat frequency
and intensity are the strongest predictor of the condition, according to
the policy memo.
“Patient-centered care within a culture of trust requires that care
providers focus on patients’ primary concerns, and these diagnoses, when
inappropriately used, can damage therapeutic rapport and interfere with
successful care,” the memo reads.
Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, I Corps commander, speaking at an Aug. 2 press
conference at Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord,
Wash., agreed that the patient-centered care approach and
standardization is best.
“Our number one concern is taking care of Soldiers and their Families,”
he said. “Cost doesn’t play a part in military medicine. We want them to
have world-class medical care.” Other aspects of standardization for
PTSD care are being addressed. For example, some medications used in the
past were found to not be the best choices for PTSD, said Warner.
A cutting-edge development within the Army for the prevention of PTSD
that the committee is looking at, for example, would be Comprehensive
Soldier Fitness, which increases a Soldier’s resiliency, he said.
Standardization is not limited to Army Medical Command Policy Memo
12-035. The Army, VA and other services are standardizing the
administration of treatment, using the Integrated Disability Evaluation
System, or IDES.
Warner said the IDES, in conjunction with the Army Physical Evaluation
Board, determines whether or not a service member should stay in service
or transition to the VA system as a medical retiree. If the latter, the
servicemember is guided through the process of transitioning from Army
to VA care, while he or she is still on active duty, to ensure no loss
of coverage or break in treatment, he explained.