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Use of telemental health for VA family services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKee GB, Knopp K, Morland LA, Glynn SM, Connolly SL, McDonald SD. Use of telemental health for VA family services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Services. 2022 Sep 1.

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Military veterans experiencing relationship or family difficulties are able to access family services (i.e., couple and family therapy) through the Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System. Although family services have historically been provided face-to-face (F2F), the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a sudden shift to the provision of care via telemental health, which includes videoconferencing (TMH-V) or audio-only phone appointments. This study demonstrated an unprecedented 16-fold increase in the number of TMH-V appointments for family services in VA during the first 9 months of the pandemic. The present study also examined demographic, mental health, and military variables associated with TMH-V utilization before and during the pandemic using a large national VA data set of 13,344 veterans who were referred to couple or family therapy from October 2017 through December 2020. Logistic regression was used to evaluate predictors of having any appointments via TMH-V before and during COVID-19, respectively, as well as predictors of having 50% or more of family service appointments via TMH-V versus phone versus face-to-face appointments during the COVID-19 era. Pre-COVID predictors of TMH-V utilization were limited to obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis and history of psychiatric hospitalization, suggesting that TMH-V usage was largely related to clinical indications. In the COVID-19 era, older and rural veterans were less likely to attend appointments via TMH-V than younger and suburban/urban veterans, while Hispanic veterans were more likely to do so than non-Hispanic veterans. The findings from the present study may aid efforts to ensure equity in access to care among veterans in the VA Health Care System. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

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