In an update published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated that, during the pandemic, telemedicine has been an effective tool for the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders.
Since the last update in 2015, the use of telemedicine has increased exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The growing body of published research has found telemedicine to be effective for the diagnosis and management of sleep apnea and for the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia.
The update authors underlined the importance of maintaining patient privacy so that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), state, and federal guidelines are followed. Clinicians should be sure to activate emergency services (eg, e-911) if an emergency situation is witnessed during a care session.
To ensure patient safety is maintained while practicing telemedicine, a quality assurance model is needed that incorporates contingency plans for patients with limited technology skills and for those with language or communication barriers. Telemedicine visits should mirror in-person visits, which means that both patient and clinician can devote their undivided attention to the patient’s health care needs.
The authors of this update stated that telemedicine has the potential to reduce the health care access gap for individuals who live in remote locations or belong to lower socioeconomic groups. Telemedicine, however, relies on high-speed internet access, which may be inaccessible for some among these groups.
Additional research is needed to assess the long-term outcomes of patients who used telehealth services for the diagnosis or management of a sleep disorder. Validated workflows and templates are needed for the diagnosis and management of narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, parasomnias, insomnia, and circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders with telemedicine. A large volume of sleep data has been generated by medical and consumer wearable devices and these data require validation to be used in sleep medicine care.
With time and additional research, the best practices, successes, and challenges of using telemedicine for managing sleep conditions will allow for more flexible policies that support the expansion and use of telemedicine.
Disclosure: Multiple authors declared affiliations with pharmaceutical, biotech, and/or device industries. Please refer to the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.
Shamim-Uzzaman QA, Bae CJ, Ehsan Z, et al. The use of telemedicine for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine update. J Clin Sleep Med. 2021;17(5):1103-1107. doi:10.5664/jcsm.9194