Strategies and a case example illustrate how principles of trauma-informed care can be applied to telehealth.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was an early adopter for telehealth, and in 2017, developed the Veterans Video Connect platform that is being widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The application of a trauma-informed lens to telehealth within the VHA and other health care systems has the potential to mitigate some negative impacts of the pandemic and other traumatic events and increase patient engagement in care. This article explores how the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) six principles of trauma-informed care can be applied to telehealth. The authors present a case of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder to illustrate how telehealth visits can be more trauma-informed.
Some examples for how telehealth visits can be more trauma-informed include: (1) providing safety resources that can be accessed virtually, such as crisis hot lines; (2) ensuring your position from the screen allows the patient to see your body language and eye contact; (3) allowing the patient to choose the room where the visit occurs; and (4) making telehealth more accessible for individuals who lack devices or Internet access or who need an interpreter.
Although virtual physical examinations have limitations, telehealth visits may allow patients to feel empowered by choice over their surroundings, and allow for a greater portion of time to discuss the patient’s care plan. Trauma-informed telehealth offers the potential to ensure continuity of care during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing safe and collaborative interactions between patients and health care teams.