IOM: More Analysis Needed on PTSD Treatments

HealthDay News — U.S. government agencies must do more to determine whether treatments are actually helping veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), say experts involved in a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The expert committee says that the effectiveness of PTSD therapies remains unknown because they are not tracked by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. In 2012, the defense department spent $294 million and the VA spent $3 billion on PTSD care, but there is no way to know if this money was well used, the panelists said.

The defense department and VA need to develop, coordinate and implement a system that documents PTSD patients’ progress over the course of treatment, regardless of where they receive care. They also need to conduct long-term follow-up with patients, the IOM said. The report also said that the defense department and VA need to have enough mental health care providers to meet the growing demand for PTSD care. They have substantially increased their mental health staffing, but this does not appear to have kept pace with the demand for PTSD services. In 2013, only 53 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were diagnosed with PTSD and sought VA care had received the recommended eight treatment sessions within 14 weeks, the report noted.

“Given that the DoD and VA are responsible for serving millions of service members, families and veterans, we found it surprising that no PTSD outcome measures are used consistently to know if these treatments are working or not,” committee chair Sandro Galea, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, said in an institute news release.