To demonstrate the noninferiority of a telemedicine modality, videoteleconferencing, compared to traditional in-person service delivery of a group psychotherapy intervention for rural combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A randomized controlled noninferiority trial of 125 male veterans with PTSD (according to DSM criteria on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale) and anger difficulties was conducted at 3 Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics. Participants were randomly assigned to receive anger management therapy delivered in a group setting with the therapist either in-person (n = 64) or via videoteleconferencing (n = 61). Participants were assessed at baseline, midtreatment (3 weeks), posttreatment (6 weeks), and 3 and 6 months posttreatment. The primary clinical outcome was reduction of anger difficulties, as measured by the anger expression and trait anger subscales of the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory-2 (STAXI-2) and by the Novaco Anger Scale total score (NAS-T). Data were collected from August 2005 to October 2008.
Participants in both groups showed significant and clinically meaningful reductions in anger symptoms, with posttreatment and 3 and 6 months posttreatment effect sizes ranging from .12 to .63. Using a noninferiority margin of 2 points for STAXI-2 subscales anger expression and trait anger and 4 points for NAS-T outcomes, participants in the videoteleconferencing condition demonstrated a reduction in anger symptoms similar ("non-inferior") to symptom reductions in the in-person groups. Additionally, no significant between-group differences were found on process variables, including attrition, adherence, satisfaction, and treatment expectancy. Participants in the in-person condition reported significantly higher group therapy alliance.
Clinical and process outcomes indicate delivering cognitive-behavioral group treatment for PTSD-related anger problems via videoteleconferencing is an effective and feasible way to increase access to evidence-based care for veterans residing in rural or remote locations.