Study: Telemedicine Improves Access to High-Quality Sleep Care

Although the technology to remotely connect physician and patient has been in place for years, its use was limited until the spread of COVID-19.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently published an update on the use of telemedicine for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. The researchers sought to replicate lessons learned from the transition to telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and the benefits of continuing to utilize remote care when appropriate.

Although the technology to remotely connect physician and patient has been in place for years, its use was limited until the spread of COVID-19, according to the study.

“Delivering care during the pandemic has proven to providers and insurers that telemedicine offers patients safe, secure and effective sleep care,” said Douglas Kirsch, MD, chair of the AASM Telemedicine Presidential Committee, in a press release. “The AASM will continue to advocate for permanent coverage and reimbursement of telemedicine services with CMS and third-party payers.”

The update addresses several key issues in the delivery of sleep care using telemedicine, including quality and value, privacy and safety, health advocacy, and future directions. The paper shares new evidence that telemedicine is effective in the diagnosis and management of obstructive sleep apnea and improves adherence to CPAP therapy. Further, telemedicine has been widely used to provide care to patients with insomnia through cognitive behavioral therapy and brief behavioral therapy with results similar to in-person treatment, according to the study.

The paper also acknowledges opportunities for improvement in the adoption and use of telemedicine, including compliance with patient privacy laws, additional training for providers, and awareness of limited access among disadvantaged populations.

“Telemedicine improves access to care, but we need to be cautious that its use doesn’t introduce new health inequities in underserved communities that may lack the necessary technologies,” Kirsch said in a press release. “Improved connectivity and increased access to high-speed internet need to grow together with telehealth expansion.”

REFERENCE

Telemedicine improves access to high-quality sleep care. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Published March 31, 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://aasm.org/telemedicine-improves-access-high-quality-sleep-care/