Sleep Telemedicine: Insomnia & Sleep Apnea Treatment Goes Virtual
According to the CDC, in a single week in March 2020, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visits carried out in America. This was because the onset of a global pandemic suddenly made in-person medical visits a risk factor for both doctors and patients.
The technology supporting telemedicine has been available for many years, and it was becoming a more popular alternative, especially to overcome the geographic distance between patients and specialists. Yet, the need to limit interpersonal contact expedited this trend. The quick rise of telemedicine has affected nearly every type of health care specialty – from psychology to cardiology. Even physician practices have adopted virtual visits as a way to provide uninterrupted care for patients with chronic or non-emergency conditions. Sleep disorder clinics are no exception.
It is understandable that many people have questions about this new use of technology in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. We wanted to provide some answers…
What is sleep telemedicine?
This refers mainly to diagnostic and treatment services provided for people with sleep disorders by means of consultations held over the phone or during videocalls. Telemedicine may also involve sharing healthcare records, lab results, x-rays, and imaging, or photos between patients and their doctors or between primary care physicians and sleep specialists.
Sleep telemedicine can be used in the process of diagnosing a sleep disorder, providing on-going therapy, as well as treatment monitoring and follow-ups.
What are the benefits of sleep disorder telehealth?
For people struggling with sleep disorders, remote visits make it possible to be more dedicated and involved to their own care and recovery. Generally, the flexibility, accessibility, and alleviation of some challenges – such as transportation, work, lack of time, and childcare – make telehealth a valuable option. These are some of the other advantages:
- It is a safe alternative to in-person visits in order to reduce exposure to the coronavirus.
- Sleep telemedicine serves people in remote locations and eliminates or decreases the need to drive to receive ongoing care.
- Appointments can be scheduled as needed and wait time is limited.
- It is convenient for follow-up visits and continual treatment programs.
- Telehealth appointments can be done in the comfort of your own home.
What types of sleep disorders can be treated through telehealth?
Is telemedicine effective in treating insomnia?
Yes. Recent studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) appointments held through videoconferencing apps can be just as effective as in-person visits.
Multiple clinical trials attest to the fact that CBTi can be a successful way to treat insomnia. It is a powerful, drug-free treatment process that can be used for all types of patients struggling with the sleep disorder. Now, experts say this first-line treatment option can be just as effective when carried out online, in the comfort of the patient’s home.
Watch this video to learn more about how cognitive behavioral therapy works to treat insomnia.
When comparing CBTi conducted via telemedicine and in a clinical setting, the results are equally positive. According to a study led by J. Todd Arnedt, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology and co-director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory at Michigan Medicine, people being treated for insomnia were equally satisfied with the therapy process and the relationship formed with their therapist. Three months after beginning CBTi therapy, sleep telemedicine was shown to help effectively manage the severity of symptoms and improve daytime functionality for participants in the study.
During a period when non-essential services are largely on hold and social distancing is recommended, virtual CBTi can be a great option. This is also good news because, in the past, one of the challenges is that there were not enough practitioners providing CBTi to match the number of people struggling with long-term insomnia. Telehealth treatment can help ensure access for everyone seeking relief from chronic insomnia.
Are you suffering from sleeplessness? Learn more about treatment options for insomnia.
How does telemedicine help those with sleep apnea?
In the diagnosis phase, primary care physicians, and sleep clinicians are using telemedicine to consult with patients. Once, a patient is diagnosed, it can also be a helpful tool as doctors work to develop an effective treatment plan.
Videoconferencing technology is proving itself to be helpful in supporting the management of obstructive sleep apnea as well. Sleep clinics are currently using it to connect clients and respiratory therapists for follow-up visits. Along with remote CPAP usage monitoring, specialists are able to support on-going compliance with CPAP therapy. This includes assisting clients with mask fitting and properly using their CPAP device.
Related article: Coronavirus Concerns for Patients with Sleep Apnea.
Contact Sleep Health Solutions of Ohio for comprehensive sleep testing and diagnostic support for sleep disorders.