On June 27, we celebrated National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day in the U.S., the culmination of PTSD Awareness Month. Each June, the government, military and behavioral health providers and advocacy groups take steps to educate the public about PTSD, a serious health condition affecting many lives. Cerner recognizes the importance of PTSD and other behavioral health conditions as part of the health information technology (IT) requirements that many of our clients face daily.
PTSD is a debilitating mental and physical illness often suffered in response to witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. These traumas often include combat or military experiences, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, physical or sexual assault, serious accidents or other forms of criminal victimization. It can even be triggered by simply learning about an injury, illness or death of a loved one.
While sometimes subtle, possible signs and symptoms of PTSD may include prolonged painful memories, disturbing thoughts or feelings, trouble sleeping, mood swings and behavior changes, anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, thoughts of self-harm, difficulty performing daily activities and avoidance of situations that may trigger recollections of the trauma. Further, PTSD is inextricably linked with a variety of adverse quality of life and physical health outcomes, such as musculoskeletal pain, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease (see McFarlane 2010, Pacella et al. 2013, and Schnurr and Spiro 1999).
Post-traumatic stress is estimated to afflict 11 to nearly 30 percent of servicemembers or veterans. It is recognized most often among those returning from combat. It is not, however, just a military problem. Data about lifetime prevalence suggests that 7 to 8 percent of the American public will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Tragically, events that can cause PTSD can happen anytime and anywhere.
As a developer of IT solutions for health care providers who may need to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder head-on, Cerner has an obligation to provide the best tools possible to support those experiencing PTSD. To that end, our work has led to significant advancements in capabilities designed to help care teams provide early and accurate PTSD detection and treatment.
Our Behavioral Health team has focused on developing and embedding more robust trauma-based screening and assessment tools (e.g., CAPS-5 and PCL-5) in Cerner Millennium®. We are incorporating evidence-based PTSD clinical practice guidelines published by the National Center for PTSD into clinical workflows and helping to deliver therapeutic interventions for individuals undergoing treatment in group settings. Additionally, powered by clinical data captured in Millennium, as well as patient biometric data, Cerner Math developed PTSD Predictor, a prediction model for helping to improve early detection and identification of individuals at elevated risk for PTSD progression. The decision support model can accurately classify who is at substantial risk of a suicide attempt, driven by clinical data captured in the patient’s longitudinal health record and wearable device data. The patient’s care team can receive near real-time feedback through the predictive model.
We also advocate for increased public funding and improved access to care for mental health disorders, including PTSD. In collaboration with the National Council for Behavioral Health, Cerner helps engage lawmakers, government agencies, industry groups and corporations to improve mental health care in the U.S. and integrate behavioral health into the mainstream world of health care. Behavioral health care as a discipline continues to grow in importance and Cerner has the opportunity to bring PTSD the attention it deserves and create innovations for improved PTSD identification and treatment.
Because we are collectively more powerful than the sum of our parts, I encourage all Cerner associates and partners to take three simple actions to keep us moving in the right direction. First, become more informed. Learn about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by visiting the National Center for PTSD. There, you will have access to vital information about this condition through a variety of tools such as a compilation of videos from veterans, clinicians and the families of those affected by PTSD.
Second, consider participating in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training -- it's just like CPR but for the brain. Cerner recently hosted its first MHFA training for associates and community members and we are planning additional training sessions later in the year.
Finally, give some thought to how trauma can affect both the mental and physical health of individuals. Together with our partners, we can collectively raise awareness about PTSD and advance Cerner solutions to better support trauma-informed care and those suffering from PTSD.