Current and Future Implications of Telehealth for Sleep Disorders: Lucas Donovan, MD, MS

Following a study of patient experiences with telehealth in sleep medicine, the assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at the University of Washington shed light on the positive and negative aspects of its integration. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“It's clear that telehealth by itself is not a panacea. Patients in our study highlighted that they still needed tangible services that could not be delivered by telehealth—some patients or a sample noted that they had all their questions answered by the provider over telehealth, but even though their questions were answered, they still had difficulty accessing the services that were typically needed, particularly those services that were delivered in person, such as mask fittings of CPAP devices.”

Utilization of telehealth has presented both benefits and challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for patients with sleep disorders. Lucas Donovan, MD, MS, sat down with NeurologyLive to discuss the importance of virtual visits during the pandemic, as well as how he anticipates telehealth being integrated in the future. 

As an assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at the University of Washington, and a core investigator at the Seattle-Denver Health Services Research & Development Center of Innovation, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division, Donovan shared his opinion on telehealth, noting that its use has aided in overcoming communication, geographic, and scheduling barriers. Additionally, he spoke on large changes in his ability to provide care to his patients, and in fact, noted that he sees more patients than he would in-person, experiences fewer no-shows, and is able to start more appointments on time. While patients still require in-person visits for physical exams, Donovan commented that the proportion of these visits versus virtual appointments will need to be “fine-tuned,” depending on individual patient needs. 

Further discussed was the need to ensure that telehealth is delivered equitably, as some patients may not have the ability or resources to access technology. According to Donovan, the VA has developed initiatives to address this issue, sending veterans tablets and providing training if needed.