Military app saving lives

With an alarming number of soldiers and veterans committing suicide, the Pentagon is hoping that smart-phone technology can help reverse that trend.

For thousands of soldiers coming home from war – smart phones are serving as a literal life-line to therapy and rehabilitation. A new military app developed by the Department of Defense is helping soldiers recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s all part of an emerging trend where technology is being used to reduce the stresses in post-combat issues.

"Our service members and veterans are carrying phones in their pockets, and now we can leverage this tool and it can help us do our work better for these servicemen," Dr. Greg Reger, a clinical psychologist with the Department of Defense, said.

The Department of Defense's National Center for Telehealth & Technology sponsored the development of a new app called PE Coach – or Prolonged Exposure Coach.

Prolonged Exposure is a tried and true therapy program that has been successful in treating PTSD for decades. Now it is being used electronically to further assist the military in the battle against depression.

"Here's an existing treatment where providers meet with patients eight to 12 times times over a five week period. It is proven to be effective," Reger said. "I believe this is the first of its kind -- a smart phone application to provide a patient and provider in an evidence based treatment. It has moved our therapy in a revolutionary direction leveraging widely used tools."

The design is unique because it is created to work with patients and therapists together. It is not a self-help program, the point is for the soldier to always feel connected. It simply streamlines the professionally-guided treatment with doctors treating PTSD.

In today's technology-driven world smart phones always seem to be powered on and within reach, making this tool easily accessible. It also empowers those living with PTSD by allowing them to engage in their own care with ease.

The application also helps guide through techniques like controlled breathing that will helps veterans tolerate and decrease their distress.

"In the last couple of months we have gotten feedback, one provider said -- 'why wouldn't I love this?'" Reger said. "It's everything that I need right on the patient's phone. Some of the tasks they have to do on as homework, they're writing in public places, how much more inconspicuous can you get than pulling out a phone?"

Reger goes on to say technology development is not just for post-deployment. The government is working to support service member during the deployment, too. Researchers are constantly designing informational websites such as for constant reinforcement, tools and advice.