03/14/2014 01:35 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT

PTSD treatment via video conferencing good option, veteran says

A New Brunswick man who served in Bosnia says video conferencing technology can help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder without having to travel to see a doctor.

Keith Steeves, of Albert Mines, says after six months of active duty in the war-torn country, he struggled with insomnia, nightmares and anxiety attacks for nearly a decade upon his return in 1993.

He was diagnosed with PTSD two years ago and video conferencing, also known as teleconferencing or telehealth, became vital to his treatment plan, he said.

It allowed him to access the support and doctors he needed at the Albert County Health and Wellness Centre in Riverside-Albert, without the expense of travel.

"It helped me a great deal really," Steeves said. He is now much better equipped to manage his PTSD and recognize triggers, he said.

"The teleconference itself, the image is very clear, you can do the focusing yourself, and the sound is really good, and it's private, confidential. The doctor can be quite detailed in his questions and the interviews and whatnot. Mind you, it's all questions and diagnosis that way — they can't physically touch you, but, I mean, he can determine your problems and determine the type of medication you might need or whatnot."

Without the option to video conferencing, Steeves says he would have had to travel 300 kilometres round trip at least once per month for doctor appointments.

"It saved me a lot of trips," he said. "I had 20 or more appointments over the years. If I had to drive there … that would have been over 6,000 kilometres I would have had to drive over the last couple of years."

Angela Lawson, video conference operations co-ordinator at Horizon Health Network, says many doctors still don't know it exists, so it's often up to the patient to ask.

She encourages patients to ask their physicians if video conferencing is an option for them.