Improvements in Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress

Post-traumatic stress (PTS) cases are on the rise, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In what seems to be the knick of time, a new breakthrough may help cut down the time it takes to diagnose new cases both in military service members and in the general population. A recent study on diagnosing PTS focused on the veteran population but the results and recommendations can apply to all.

It’s important to understand that diagnosing PTS is a time-consuming process. On average, it takes at least 30 minutes to accurately diagnose a patient. Researchers use machine learning to streamline the process and cut down the time it takes to diagnose. And while ‘machine learning’ may be an unfamiliar term, it’s something we encounter constantly in our everyday lives. Machine learning tools help power most of the technology we use, by choosing what they show and recommend to us. From Netflix to YouTube, Google, Facebook and even voice-operated tech like Siri and Alexa, machine learning recommendations are a huge part of the average person’s modern daily life. 

The new machine learning tool created by researchers cut half a dozen questions from the standard twenty-question diagnostic tool for PTS and helps identify the most important diagnostic item for PTS: detachment or estrangement from others. It also shows that different approaches to diagnosing PTS might be helpful for men and women. The six questions that were removed largely applied to women, while for men that number was just four. While there is some overlap, it has showcased the importance of approaching diagnoses differently depending on a person’s gender. 

While the tool in this new study is a piece of technology, it doesn’t mean that human clinicians are being replaced by computers. Far from it. Researchers see this as a first step, and a companion tool to traditional clinical diagnosis.In the VA’s healthcare system, the current screening measures for PTS require a second level of examination verification. This new technology creates the potential for a pathway to skip that first step and go directly to a diagnostic interview. This abbreviates the diagnostic process and in turn, the time it takes to get someone the treatments they need, such as admittance to one of our Intrepid Spirit Centers

The next step for this study is implementation by both military and general clinicians. Of course that takes time, but once this tool can be widely used, it will help transform the diagnosis of PTS and no doubt make it easier for more people to get accurate diagnoses in less time, all while improving the process along the way.


Posted on January 25 2021 in Blog

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