VA San Diego Healthcare System
VASDHS Researchers introduce tablet technology for screening
Researchers from VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), in collaboration with Service Wing Healthcare, Inc. and the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), have begun trials to research the use of digital methods for health care screening of younger Veterans. The first trial at a military muster on Dec. 8 provided data via nine electronic tablets as part of a larger study to usher the use of technology for screening the latest generation of returning combat Veterans.
“At the recent muster, the tablets were very popular with the Marines with many of them waiting to use the tablets rather than paper forms,” said Dr. Niloofar Afari, principal investigator of the study and director of clinical affairs at the Center for Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH). “They said they enjoyed the ease of use, time savings and instant feedback of a tablet.”
According to Dr. Afari, there is an urgency to streamline the health care screening process for younger Veterans both due to the number of returning combat Veterans and their preference for technology. “We need to address their needs using their communication channels rather than relying on paper-based screenings,” she said.
This two-year study, commonly known as “eScreening,” will look to compare the effectiveness of patients using paper versus electronic methods to input health care information. Researchers began the first step on Oct. 1, 2011, with the screening of Veterans using the traditional paper method. As of Dec. 1, 800 paper screenings have been collected to compare with the digital screenings.
Veterans who complete the digital screenings are asked to input their health information through an electronic tablet that combines comprehensive psychosocial questions (including sections on posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and depression) with traditional mental and physical health screens. The software on the tablet then compiles the data into a comprehensive report and streamlines the process of accessing information for targeted, expedient care. From the clinician’s perspective, it also will allow better patient relations and greater ability to meet future demands.
When the study ends in 2013, the data will be instrumental in evaluating the potential for broader dissemination of eScreening throughout the Veterans Health Administration. According to Dr. Afari, this potential is not only in terms of screening younger Veterans but also in any clinical setting where VA medical centers need to obtain information from a Veteran.