Employing a Stepped-Wedge Design to Implement an Evidence-Based Psychotherapy for PTSD in Six Large, Diverse Health Care Systems

Grant Details

Funder: PCORI

Grant Number:

Project Period: 2022 – 2025

  • Lead Sites:
    • Yale (co-PI Joan Cook) and KPHI (co-PI Vanessa Simiola)
  • Participating Sites:
    • Henry Ford Health System (co-I Lisa Matero)
    • Kaiser Permanente Northwest (co-I Frances Lynch)
    • Kaiser Permanente Georgia (co-Is Ashli Owen-Smith, Kanetha Wilson, Courtney McCracken)
    • Essentia Health (co-I Melissa Harry)
    • Baylor Scott & White Health (co-I Katherine Sanchez)

Brief Narrative: Written Exposure Therapy (WET) is a five-session exposure-based EBP for PTSD that was efficacious in randomized controlled trials for treating PTSD from different types of traumas. In addition to PCORI’s recognition, WET is recommended as a first-line treatment by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). In two recent trials, WET was non-inferior to the more time-intensive, gold-standard EBP, Cognitive Processing Therapy. Thus, WET seems to meet the need for alternative PTSD treatments that are brief, with little dropout, and require less clinical training. Indeed, WET’s brevity and tolerability make it an ideal first-level intervention, appealing to patients who have opted not to seek out more time- and therapist-intensive EBPs. WET addresses significant barriers to other EBPs for PTSD at the patient, provider, and system levels.

The project will employ a stepped wedge design to implement WET in six, large, diverse, integrated, civilian health care systems across the United States— Kaiser Permanente (KP) Hawaii, Henry Ford Health System, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Kaiser Permanente Georgia, Essentia Health, and Baylor Scott & White Health — with all sites receiving the intervention during the project period. The healthcare systems are members of the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN), a consortium of 14 research centers. Sites will be assigned to one of two implementation groups. Every site will receive WET training, consultation, and multi-component implementation strategies, promoting equity and advancing the field of implementation science.

The specific aims of this project are to:

  1. Employ multi-component implementation strategies to help mental health providers implement WET for their PTSD patients in mental health settings in six health care systems.
  2. Use Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) to understand the determinants and process of implementation.
  3. Utilize RE-AIM framework to evaluate implementation outcomes for mental health providers and patients.

Trauma and PTSD in Medical Records

Grant Details:

Funder: NIMH (MHRN III Feasibility Pilot Program)

Grant Number: U19MH121738

Project Period: 7/1/2022 – 6/30/2023


Background: Exposure to potentially traumatic events such as physical and sexual abuse/assault, serious accidental injury, mass shootings, and terrorism, and associated PTSD are major public health concerns (Magruder, McLaughlin & Elmore Borbon, 2017). It is estimated that over 20 million Americans develop PTSD at some point in their life (Kessler, Berglund et al., 2005). Inadequate treatment of PTSD may lead to chronic impairment and disability and have long-term and widespread familial and societal consequences (e.g., domestic violence, suicide, incarceration).

Incident rates of PTSD appear strikingly low in the health care system compared to estimates derived from representative epidemiological studies of the general public. Conservative estimates suggest that up to 80% of adults will experience a traumatic event during their lifetime. In a large nationally representative epidemiological study, it was estimated that PTSD impacts 3.6% of civilians each year, with a lifetime prevalence rate of 6.8% (Kessler, Berglund et al., 2005; Kessler, Chiu et al., 2005). However, in a recent examination of PTSD in six MHRN-affiliated health care systems we found less than 1% of the patient population had a diagnosis of PTSD when using ICD diagnosis codes only, suggesting patients may be underdiagnosed or inadequately captured using this method. Further, ICD diagnosis codes are limited in their ability to capture trauma exposure type (e.g., combat exposure, motor vehicle crash, sexual abuse, elder abuse, intimate partner violence, natural disaster) and may be underutilized by providers.

This project builds on previously MHRN-funded research conducted by Negriff and colleagues (Lynch, 2022) who examined incidence of child maltreatment comparing rates of those captured by ICD diagnosis codes versus natural language processing (NLP). In their investigation, NLP identified 10 times more children with child maltreatment than just using the diagnosis code. Building on this methodology the proposed pilot project will use NLP to identify patients within one health care system (Kaiser Permanente Hawaii) who experience PTSD compared to those identified using ICD diagnosis codes only. Further, we test the feasibility of using NLP to categorize patients based on exposure type (e.g., combat, motor vehicle crash, sexual abuse, etc.). NLP may help to identify additional trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD that are not documented/captured through ICD codes. This may lead to the identification of care gaps, novel treatment targets, and characteristics (e.g., age, sex, race/ethnicity, trauma exposure type) that may make it more/less likely to have ICD coded PTSD. To date, PTSD has been relatively underexamined within the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN) despite being identified as a priority area in this third funding cycle.

Research Questions:

  1. Does NLP allow us to obtain estimates of the number of adults who experience PTSD that are more comparable to national epidemiologic data?
  2. Are there differences by group (e.g., age, sex, race/ethnicity, trauma type) of those captured through NLP versus ICD diagnosis code?
  3. Can we establish feasibility for systematically identifying trauma exposure using previously collected data within the health care system?

Methods: The project PI will convene a panel of interested MHRN investigators to discuss approach, assist in the identification of terms, interpretation and use of results, and future research. Drs. Frances Lynch, Jordan Braciszewski and Rob Penfold have expressed interest in serving on this panel and a larger invitation will be sent to all MHRN-affiliated investigators, if funded.

 We propose to use simple NLP queries at 1 MHRN site to identify incidents of trauma exposure and PTSD and compare the number of cases identified through NLP compared to those identified using ICD codes only. We will Identify a cohort of adults (age 18 and over) at KPHI and develop a Bag of Words (concept unique identifiers), building off those developed by Negriff, Lynch and Penfold, to search chart notes. Following the initial search, the PI, a licensed clinical psychologist, will conduct chart review of up to 150 cases to manually review text for each concept unique identifier and flag confirmed cases (yes/no). This data will be used to retrain NLP and the process will be repeated a second time for quality assurance/validation. We will use standard methods for identifying patients based on ICD-codes only (comparison group). We will then conduct appropriate statistical analyses to examine differences in identification by groups.   

Planned Product: The results of this pilot study will serve as the basis for an R01 application to the National Institute of Mental Health under the NOSI Secondary Analysis of Posttraumatic Psychopathology Data. In addition, results from this study will be presented via scientific conference presentation and/or peer-reviewed publication.

Lead Site: KPHI (PI Vanessa Simiola)

Participating Sites: N/A

Current Status:

Summary of Findings: