OEF/OIF/OND war Veterans have unique post-deployment care needs that the VA is striving to understand and address. Unfortunately, there is a significant disparity in utilization of mental health (MH) care and VA access as most war Veterans don?t seek needed care. New interventions are urgently needed to address disparities in post-deployment MH treatment engagement for our war Veterans and to support VA?s efforts to provide them with optimal access and care. Online health interventions have been shown to be preferred by OEF/OIF combat Veterans and have the potential to promote access to VA MH care. Our research team has developed a web-based interface (WEB-ED) evolved by feedback from Veterans that screens for common post-deployment MH and readjustment concerns, provides tailored education about positive screens, and facilitates linkage to VA resources. Data from our prior studies demonstrate WEB-ED can be successfully implemented within VA and activate Veterans to seek needed care. Furthermore, emerging evidence indicates that when patients are educated about their health conditions and treatment alternatives using shared decision- making (SDM), increased treatment participation and adherence, and better health outcomes result. Next steps include: linking Veteran WEB-ED screening results to a VA secure network so that a provider can access the results; and integrating a SDM interface to promote Veteran- Provider partnerships in patient-centered care. We propose a three phase study to address our aims.
Aim 1 (phase 1) we will gather qualitative information from key VA and Veteran informants to create an enhanced version (WEB-ED+) of our Current WEB-ED that includes an eHealth and SDM interface.
Aim 2 (phase 2) will use a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test WEB- ED+ vs. Current WEB-ED in promoting VA MH care engagement.
Aim 3 (phase 3) we will employ a process evaluation to determine the feasibility and acceptability of WEB-ED+ for both Veterans and VA practitioner and to document the VA processes Veterans use to enroll and engage in VA MH care. This study will improve our understanding of the most effective methods to reduce barriers to enrollment in VA/MHV and transferring important medical information using My HealtheVet (MHV). Furthermore, it will provide important information regarding how WEB- ED results can enhance the capability of VA providers and transition patient advocates to use Veterans? screening results to triage and engage Veterans in patient-centered MH care and promote VA provider adoption of WEB-ED+ to facilitate patient engagement. Online screening, tailored education, and links to geographically accessible VA resources has been shown to be preferred by Veterans, providing recognition of treatable post-deployment MH concerns, and education that reduces stigma. This study builds upon and augments this prior work with research to understand and evaluate the processes needed to integrate WEB-ED+ into current VHA systems to support efficient care delivery, facilitate patient-centered care, and address unmet need for MH care while also resolving disparities in VA and VA MH care access and engagement for war Veterans. WEB-ED+?s use of shared decision making is a key component for promoting these benefits. WEB-ED+ represents a readily implementable and cost-effective intervention that, with partner collaboration, can be integrated into VA systems through MHV. Findings have important policy implications for several operational partners heavily invested in the improved access and delivery of evidence-based mental health care for war Veterans.

Public Health Relevance

Our newest war Veterans have complex care needs that the VA is striving to understand and address. While post-deployment mental health (MH) conditions and readjustment concerns are prevalent in this group, most Veterans do not access needed care. Our research team developed a web-based interface (WEB-ED) that screens for common post-deployment MH conditions and provides tailored education and linkage to VA resources that significantly increases engagement with needed care. This study seeks to develop and test WEB-ED enhancements (WEB-ED+) that integrate a shared decision-making (SDM) process and eHealth interface to assist secure messaging of MH/SDM interfaces with VA providers. Findings will help us to understand WEB-ED+ usability and adaptability for routine use by Veterans and VA practitioners, and to improve VA MH care access and patient-centered care for Veterans.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Non-HHS Research Projects (I01)
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HSR-2 Determinants of Patient Response to Care (HSR2)
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Iowa City VA Medical Center
Iowa City
United States
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