Study: Providing tablets to rural veterinarians reduces suicidal behaviors, increases mental health visits

According to a Research published in Open JAMA Network.

These findings suggest that video-enabled tablets can provide access to vital services for rural patients with mental health needs and reduce cases, the authors write. suicidal behavior and ED visits among them”.


The researchers found that receiving a video-assisted tablet with a data plan was associated with an overall 20% reduction in emergency department visits, a 36% reduction in the likelihood of a visit-related suicide and a 22% reduction in the likelihood of suicidal behavior among U.S. veterans living in rural areas. These findings persist for veterinarians, who are considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be at high risk for suicide.

The tablets were also associated with 1.8 increased psychotherapy visits per year, 3.5 video psychotherapy visits, 0.7 video-based medication administration appointments, and 0.02 visits Comprehensive video-based suicide risk assessment.


The study was conducted on 13,180 tablet recipients and 458,611 non-excipients, all veterans living in rural areas who had at least one VA mental health visit in 2019.

Recipients received their tablet between March 2020 and April 2021, and the data was obtained 10 months prior to their base month. The veterinarians were followed until the end of June 2021, and the researchers attempted to track the data. for most veterans for 10 months after receiving the tablet.

They also included a subgroup considered to be at high risk for suicide by a VA prediction model that analyzed health record information.


Mental and behavioral health care is a booming area for virtual care. According to a CB Insights’ reportmental health tech startups raised $5.5 billion worldwide in 2021. Although U.S. digital health funding slowed in the first quarter this year, Rock Health found Mental health remains the leading clinical sector by investment dollars.

Telehealth use has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are concerns that some vulnerable groups may have less access to virtual care. One brief problem published by the Department of Health and Human Services shows lower rates of video-enabled telemetry usage among lower income earners; adults without a high school diploma; Respondents are Black, Latinx and Asian; and those without health insurance.


The researchers noted that the study had some limitations. First, they’re evaluating a VA health system initiative, so they can’t randomly choose who gets a tablet. It also took place during COVID-19, so it is difficult to remove the impact of the pandemic from the tablet-related implications alone.

The study also did not analyze all of the potential ways that tablets could contribute to improved mental health outcomes, like convenience in care or social connection. Future studies may look at other effects of this tablet as well as how the tablet might affect mental health in non-VA care settings.

“These findings suggest that VA and other health systems should consider leveraging video-enabled tablets to improve access to mental health care via telehealth,” the authors write. and to prevent suicides among rural residents”.

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