The Benefits of Telehealth in Treating Sleep Disorders
7 ways at-home sleep studies can improve patient outcomes
Sleep medicine was one of the earlier adopters of telehealth for testing and treating patients with sleep disorders. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) published their first telemedicine position paper all the way back in 2015. An updated review in May 2020 confirmed the guidance outlined in the original document was still relevant and should continue to serve as guiding principles.
According to the Sleep Foundation, in the U.S. alone, 50-70 million people suffer from sleep disorders. Of those, 44% of men snore and women are 40% more likely to experience insomnia than men. Additionally, chronic pain and illnesses can increase the likelihood of interrupted sleep. Clearly, we have a sleep crisis on our hands—but where does telehealth fit into it?
Telehealth and at-home sleep medicine
Currently, there is a large, unmet need for sleep specialists that could see some relief from the integration of virtual care. One of telehealth’s standout applications is at-home sleep testing, a process that allows individuals to undergo sleep studies in the comfort of their own bedrooms. So far, telemedicine has shown to be effective in testing for sleep apnea and insomnia as well as improving adherence to prescribed sleep therapies.
Recognizing this success, its use in treatment for other disorders such as restless leg syndrome has great potential, though has less research currently. Along with most other areas of care, telehealth offers increased accessibility, reduced cost and greater convenience to those dealing with sleep disorders. Its ability to meet patients where they are and offer providers and researchers the flexibility to see patients, opens the door to a more well rested population.
Here are seven ways the use of telehealth can benefit the practice and treatment of sleep disorders.
A gentle approach to diagnosis
Traditional sleep disorder diagnostics often require patients to spend a night at a sleep clinic, surrounded by unfamiliar equipment and a clinical atmosphere. Understandably, this can lead to a phenomenon known as the "first-night effect," where individuals have difficulty sleeping naturally in a foreign environment. At-home sleep testing flips the script by allowing patients to maintain their regular sleep routines in their own beds. This not only leads to more authentic data but also a more accurate representation of their sleep patterns and potential disorders.
Pair this with the continued technological innovation of RPM devices, and you have an environment perfectly suited for sleep studies without all the stressors. The patient feels less “plugged in” and is able to genuinely relax enough to offer quality sleep data.
Greater convenience and patient participation
A primary perk of at-home sleep testing is the convenience it offers. Patients no longer need to travel to a clinic or spend a night away from home. Instead, they can undergo tests in a setting where they feel most comfortable, ensuring that their sleep habits are captured as naturally as possible.
This convenience factor has the potential to boost patient participation rates, enabling more individuals to seek timely diagnosis and treatment for their sleep disorders.
Personalized solutions for varied sleep disorders
The beauty of at-home sleep testing lies in its ability to provide detailed insights into various sleep disorders. From the disruptive snoring that keeps partners awake at night to the more serious condition of sleep apnea, these tests can capture a spectrum of issues.
By monitoring factors such as oxygen levels, respiratory efforts and sleep stages, healthcare professionals can craft tailored treatment plans that address the specific needs of each patient. Additionally, providers could use this increase of data to spot population sleep patterns in order to better address systemic sleep disorders and their societal factors.
Aiding and improving sleep therapy adherence
One of the persistent challenges in sleep medicine is ensuring patient adherence to recommended therapies. It's not uncommon for individuals to struggle with the adjustment to new sleep routines or therapies. This is where telehealth shines.
With remote patient monitoring, healthcare providers can keep a vigilant eye on their patients' progress. If therapy adherence falters, they can intervene promptly, offering guidance, encouragement and solutions to complications that might arise—all real time. This level of support cultivates a sense of accountability in patients, enhancing their commitment to treatment plans and building better patient outcomes.
Reduced cost, greater affordability
In addition to improved patient care, the marriage of telehealth and at-home sleep testing offers notable financial benefits. Traditional sleep clinics can be costly to operate due to overhead expenses, equipment maintenance and staffing requirements. In contrast, the telehealth approach reduces these cost burdens significantly. Patients also reap the rewards by saving on travel and accommodation expenses, making sleep disorder diagnostics and treatment more accessible to a wider range of individuals.
Valuable insights and sleep data
The rise of telehealth in sleep medicine doesn't just create convenience—it generates valuable data insights. The trove of information gathered during at-home sleep testing allows medical professionals to detect patterns, trends and potential risk factors with greater accuracy.
This knowledge contributes to informed decision-making and enables the development of advanced treatment strategies that can yield more successful outcomes. It also gives providers and researchers a more accurate look at the state of sleep health for a larger population.
Empowering patients through education
Telehealth doesn't just bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients; it empowers individuals with knowledge about their own health. At-home sleep testing enables patients to gain a deeper understanding of their sleep patterns and the implications of sleep disorders. Armed with this knowledge, patients are better equipped to make lifestyle adjustments that can complement their treatment plans. This proactive approach to health management can lead to improved overall well-being.
Powering better sleep medicine
The fusion of telehealth and at-home sleep testing is a transformative breakthrough in sleep medicine. With remote patient monitoring, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, disruptive snoring and insomnia can be diagnosed and treated more effectively, while promoting therapy adherence. The unmatched convenience, personalized care, financial benefits and data-driven insights make this approach a game-changer in the pursuit of better sleep health.
The era of telehealth-driven at-home sleep testing is not just a step forward—it's a leap toward improved patient outcomes, a higher quality of life and a future where sleep disorders are more comprehensively addressed. It's time to embrace this innovative approach and usher in a new era of sleep medicine that prioritizes patient comfort and care.
Speaking of making leaps, OpenLoop has been challenging the way we deliver care since day one. As a white-label telehealth support company, we tackle any administrative burdens so our clients can focus on what matters most—caring for patients. Struggling to meet patient demand? Our nationwide, fully-vetted network of 6000+ clinicians can be the clinical arm you need with 30+ specialties and 15+ languages spoken.
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