Rethinking Healthcare

U.S. Veterans Affairs mobile app keeps up with wounded vets

U.S. Veterans Affairs mobile app keeps up with wounded vets

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The VA's mobile app for veterans with PTSD receives an award on its first anniversary.

This month, the American Telemedicine Association presented the U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) with.an innovation award for its Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Coach mobile application on the app's one year anniversary of use.

According to the PTSD Coach website, the free app for iPhones and Androids provides:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work.
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.
  • Convenient, easy-to-use skills to help you handle stress symptoms.
  • Direct links to support and help.

The app was specifically designed for veterans and their family memebers by the VA's National Center for PTSD and the U.S. Department of Defense's National Center for Telehealth & Technology. It provides hands-on breathing exercises, as well as a personal mood tracker.

So far over 50,000 smartphone users in over 60 countries have downloaded the app. A study as to whether the tool actually makes an impact in the lives of those individuals is currently recruiting subjects at Stanford University.

The app marks one of many advancements in technology the VA has had to make to keep up with a growing number of physically and emotionally wounded service members. Today, 54% of America's Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are receiving health care from the VA, up from 40% after World War II. The VA system has had to adapt quickly in order to address not only the greater number of ex-soldiers, but the diversity of their afflictions.

On the bright side (if there is such a thing), we've seen improvements in prosthetics, an expansion of research into traumatic brain injury, and a belated but thorough campaign to address PTSD. The VA's expanded its mental health staff by 41%, to try to keep up with the 35% increase in the number of Veterans receiving mental health services since 2007.

Photo: Parker Michael Knight/Flickr

Video: DeptVetAffairs/YouTube

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure