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Thursday, 06 June 2019 09:31

New Telehealth Project Aims to Tackle Sleep Issues in the Military

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The US Navy and the University of Pittsburgh are teaming up with a Pittsburgh-based digital health startup to launch a two-year study that will use telehealth to help servicemen and women dealing with sleep issues.

Sleep experts at the University of Pittsburgh and the US Navy are joining forces with a Pittsburgh-based digital health startup to test the effectiveness of a telehealth platform in helping the nation’s armed services get a better night’s sleep.

The two-year project “will evaluate new smartphone- and web-based technology to offer military service members and their providers convenient access to proven therapies for insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disturbances,” according to a press release. According to officials, more than 40 percent of servicemen and women are dealing with sleep disorders and insomnia.

“Conquering sleep is key for optimal health, fitness, and performance, in both military personnel and civilians,” Anne Germaine, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Noctem, said in the release. Germaine launched the company in 2018 out of the LifeX Labs startup accelerator at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was an associate professor of psychiatry and founder and director of the Military Sleep Tactics and Resilience Research Team.

Aside from the University of Pittsburgh, the Naval Health Research Center Sleep and Fatigue Research Laboratory (NHRC), led by Principal Investigator Dr. Rachel Markwald, will also be participating.

Germaine reportedly led a study of post-911 service members and veterans in which she reported that the use of connected health technology “yielded similar improvements in sleep, insomnia and daytime symptoms of depression and anxiety” as traditional treatment, which often includes office and/or sleep clinic visits.

Healthcare providers and researchers, including organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep Apnea Association, have long sought to use telehealth platforms and mHealth tools to bring sleep research out of the lab and into the patient’s home, where clinicians can get a better understanding of how a patient’s daily activities affect sleep.

More recent studies are incorporating consumer-facing wearables, with the goal of pulling the patient’s primary care provider into the conversation and giving those patients an opportunity to collaborate with their regular doctor, rather than a specialist. A recent Pew Research survey indicates two out of every three Americans are already tracking health data through devices or apps.

Researchers say those interventions could help more of the estimated 70 million Americans who are experiencing common sleep disorders because they enable the patient and PCP to work on the problem together.  Such a platform could also reduce the workload for specialists, giving them more time to focus on the more serious cases.

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